Tuluksak fire victims find support in unexpected places

The Alaskan village of Tuluksak has not had stable access to fresh clean water for 3 weeks. A fire on Jan. 16 burnt down the village’s only water plant. The village of just under 400 people put forth nothing but heroic efforts to save their water plant but were unsuccessful.

A fire on January 16th devastated the village of Tuluksak’s water plant, the only source of the villages clean running water. Photo courtesy of KTOO.org.

“The smoke was starting to get in through the windows and through the vents,” Kristy Napoka, village resident and Tribal Council Secretary, said in an interview with KTOO.

Napoka’s house neighbors the Water plant and Washeteria building. Her husband attempted to extinguish the fire. 

 “When I looked out the window, my husband and a few other men were trying to get into the Water plant and Washateria,” she said. “They had to break the door, but they were a little too late. My husband did grab a hold of the hose. He was trying to turn the valve to get the water going, but the smoke was so heavy, and he couldn’t stand there any longer.”

The Napoka family eventually tried to use river water to put out the fire but it was too late; after almost 5 hours the fire burnt out and took the town’s water supply with it.

After four weeks, the Dunleavy administration has issued an emergency declaration. This came after people pressured the governor on social media to provide aid to the village. As of yet it is still unclear how they plan to remedy this issue. 

“To declare disaster immediately when an event happens, is usually only reserved for when the community is utterly overwhelmed. And there is an imminent or immediate life threat,” Director of the Alaska Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, Paul Nelson, said.

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One thing that is certain is the dedication that local activists have for rural villages. A Go Fund me has raised over $100,000 for the village to assist with immediate needs. Taboo Nawasha, Indigenous rapper and member of the Black Eyed Peas has donated water to the village. The generous hearts of Alaskans and Americans alike have provided relief to the struggling village. 

If you would like to donate please visit gofundme.com/f/rural-alaska-covid-relief