Fire destroys lone store in Arctic Alaska village

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — A fire has destroyed the only store in the small Arctic village of Kivalina (kiv uh lee’ nuh).

Alaska Dispatch News reported firefighters were dispatched to Kivalina Native Store early Friday, but Alaska State Troopers say the building was engulfed in flames and is a total loss.

The store was the only source of essentials from food to furniture for the community of about 400 people. Many residents in the traditional Inupiaq village live off subsistence foods like salmon, caribou and seals, but the store was the only supplier of diapers, formula and milk. Some residents sell small items from their homes.

By the time firefighters arrived, the store could not be saved, so they worked to save nearby buildings.

“We’re fortunate there wasn’t any wind,” Colleen Swan, who works with the volunteer fire department

Millie Hawley, president of the Kivalina IRA Council, the group which owns the store, said it was in the final stages of an extensive remodel and addition that would have lengthened the building by 12 feet. Hawley estimated that the cost to replace the building could be between $1 million and $2 million, and he said the store was insured.

The community plans to open a temporary store for the winter, and will rebuild the store when the sea is ice-free and materials can be barged in.

Charter flights are delivering baby formula and diapers.

Troopers from the Kotzebue post and a Northwest Arctic Borough village public safety officer began their investigation into the cause of the fire Friday.

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