First it was the heartache of a doped dog team in Nome, and now it’s a fire burning down the workshop of four-time Iditarod champ Dallas Seavey, formerly from Willow now from Talkeetna.
Seavey has defended himself against the doping charges saying his seven-dog team was the victim of saboteurs inside or outside the Iditarod. Facebook friends of the musher are now suggesting the fire could be more sabotage.
“Wow. Did you find out what started this fire? Looks like sabotage to me,” Marsha McAllister Stuck posted on Seavey’s Facebook page four days ago. Others followed suit.
“That’s what I was thinking…hope we are wrong,” wrote Brenda Hunt Borden.
Seavey is in Norway preparing to run the Finnmarksløpet sled dog race, but has been posting regularly on Facebook since he left Talkeenta on Monday. He has offered no opinion on the cause of the shop fire or on the speculation there might have been more sabotage.
Eric Chappel, the Talkeetna fire chief, said the fire department was never notified of the blaze, but did later learn of it. Seavey was not required to report it. The area in which he lives about 100 miles north of Anchorage is rural bordering on wild.
“It’s (actually) outside of our fire service area,” Chappel said, “(but) we respond outside the fire service area.”
The Talkeetna Fire Department has a rich tradition of jumping in wherever it can to help in a broad swath of territory that surrounds the small resort community that serves as the jumping off point for Mount Denali.
Chappel said he received no report of anything suspicious about the fire, “nothing that he’s told us.”
Seavey’s only comment about the fire came in a Monday Facebook post summing his preparations for the Finnmarksløpet.
“We have been ridiculously busy getting everything moved over to Norway so have not had time to share our adventure,” it began. “Now I want to get you all up to speed and hope to have regular updates over the next few weeks as we lead up to the Finnmarksøpet.(sic)”
The post then described Seavey’s last training run and a post-run nap interruped by a handler “yelling at me that the shop was on fire. Really??? I guess what Grandpa Seavey once told me is still true, ‘Nothing is ever so bad that it can’t get worse!’
“I stumbled outside as Christian drug my race sled out of the shop that was fully on fire. He had gone in to make sure there were no animals inside and quickly saw that it was empty of living beings. He then registered that it was incredibly hot, grabbed the sled that had just been put in the shop to thaw, and ran out.
‘Fortunately, the sled was full of all the mushing gear we had just been using so all that was saved, but everything else went up in flames. Bad news is everything in our work shop is gone; good news is that packing just got a lot easier as we don’t have anything left to pack. I guess you have to look for the silver linings.”
The reference to the sled having “just been put in the shop to thaw” would indicate the structure was in some way heated. It was 3 degrees below zero Sunday night into Monday morning in Talkeenta.
Many people in the area heat with wood, especially in small out buildings. Chappel said woodstove fires are too common and offered a reminder everyone should clean their smoke stacks.
And as with the doping of Seavey’s dog team in Nome, sabotage cannot be totally ruled out. Unless someone actually saw how the fire began, a saboteur could have sneaked into the shop, opened the door on a woodstove and exposed the place to a fire, or tipped over an electric or kerosene heater.
Some of Seavey’s Facebook friends think Seavey enemies might have taken the family pet, too.
“I think it’s all connected….I never thought that Ruby got lost or just wandered off. That was the first time I wondered if someone was aiming at Dallas and Jen,” Frances Walker-McCampbell wrote on his Facebook while observing what she took to be a suspicision fire.
“I agree,” added Tricia Cole. “It’s so sad to think someone would do these things intentionally but when you look back at all that is/has happened it’s hard to just think it’s a coincidence.”