Maxwell home heavily damaged by fire

Thanks to neighbors’ quick response, family escapes unscathed

Cordova Volunteer Fire Department firefighters respond to the fire at Mike and Sandee Maxwell’s home March 18. Photo by Nikki Cheshier/For The Cordova Times

Fire ignited by a cigarette burning in a trash bag heavily damaged the home of Mike and Sandee Maxwell on March 18, but quick action by Robin Kacsh, manager of the Powder House Bar and Grill, and her husband, former Cordova Mayor Jim Kacsh, helped the Maxwells and their daughter Michelle escape injury.

Cordova Volunteer Fire Department Chief Mike Hicks said that Robin Kacsh, at the business across from the Maxwell residence, noticed an excessive amount of smoke coming from the home and immediately called 911, while her husband went to check on the home and the Maxwells.

He discovered that one end of the house was in flames, and alerted the family, who were unaware of the fire, Hicks said.

The Maxwells got out of the house safely thanks to Kacshs’ quick response to the emergency, Hicks said.

Cordova Volunteer Firefighters responded quickly to put out a fire that engulfed much of Mike and Sandee Maxwell’s home at 1.5 Mile on the Copper River Highway, March 18. Everyone made it out of the house safely, although the home is considered a total loss, according to CVFD Chief Mike Hicks.
Photo by Nikki Cheshier/For The Cordova Times

Nineteen members of the fire department responded to the blaze at approximately 1.5 Mile on the Copper River Highway.

“Once fire crews arrived, CVFD had the blaze under control in approximately 20 minutes,” said Hicks. “Initial investigation indicates the fire started in an arctic entryway after one of the residents placed a trash bag on the deck containing an unextinguished cigarette, which eventually ignited the fire.


“Although the initial dollar loss is still unavailable, the home received heavy damage and is uninhabitable,” Hicks reported. “Fortunately, everyone got out okay, and there were no injuries to the occupants or any of the volunteers.”

Cordova Volunteer Fire Department firefighters work to extinguish the fire at Mike and Sandee Maxwell’s home March 18.
Photo by Nikki Cheshier/For The Cordova Times

An insurance adjuster will have to determine whether the home can be restored, he said.

Big-hearted Cordovans immediately stepped into action, to help the Maxwell family in any way they could.

Janet McManus started a meal-train, to provide dinners to the family during the next few weeks, and a GoFundMe page was launched within hours following the blaze, to help the family get back on their feet, and purchase clothing, toiletries, and other immediate necessities.

The fundraiser generated $10,820 from 110 donors in just two days, exceeding the original $8,000 goal.

The Maxwell’s niece, Brittany Phillips, in Boise, Idaho, started the fundraiser on the GoFundMe website March 19.

“Yesterday, March 18, the Maxwell family’s home in Cordova, Alaska caught fire destroying everything. Thankfully no one was hurt, but they are left with just the clothes on their backs and a few items they could salvage,” Phillips wrote on the page description.
“This was not just any old house, it was the Cheshier family home as well, where my grandma and grandpa raised their family, and then my Aunt Sandee and Uncle Mike raised their kids, too. Over 50 years of memories there, and to see it burned down is devastating. If you are able, please make a donation to help the Maxwell family rebuild their lives. Anything helps.”

By 11:30 a.m. March 21, approximately 48 hours following the fire which destroyed the Maxwell family’s house, $10,820 had been donated by 110 people to the Maxwell Fire House fund on’s website.
Screenshot taken from

For those wishing to donate to the fund, please visit

To sign up for the Maxwell Family meal train, visit

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Cinthia Gibbens-Stimson
Cinthia Gibbens-Stimson is a staff writer and photographer for The Cordova Times. She has been writing in one form or another for 30-plus years and has had a longstanding relationship with The Cordova Times starting in 1989. She's been an Alaskan since 1976 and first moved to Cordova in 1978. She's lived in various West Texas towns; in Denver, Colorado; in McGrath, Cordova, Galena, Kodiak, Wasilla, Anchorage and Fairbanks, Alaska and in Bangalore, India. She has two children and three grandchildren. She can be reached at or follow her on Instagram @alaskatoindia.