Spanish teacher learns lessons of loss, caring

Fire brought home role of the victim

Posted: Sunday, January 27, 2002

Elia Adams had seen tragedies first-hand, but always on the periphery - never as a victim. That changed Jan. 18, when a fire swept through her Switzer Village mobile home.

Adams, a Spanish instructor at the University of Alaska Southeast, was home at the time and escaped unharmed, but the fire left behind an estimated $70,000 in damage she said is not covered by insurance.

Prior to moving to Alaska 12 years ago, while living in Mexico, Adams saw the devastation of the 1985 Mexico City earthquake and other quakes that damaged places she knew. But it never directly hit home.

"I've been very close (to tragedy) and I've felt the loss, but not as the victim," she said.

The fire that heavily damaged the home where Adams lives with her son Donny, 9, occurred just after noon on Jan. 18. Fire Marshal Randy Waters said the blaze started after the stove was left on.

"I was in the master bedroom and I kept hearing noises out in the kitchen," Adams said. "When it persisted I went (to look) and the kitchen was on fire."

Adams said she searched for her cordless telephone and used it to call 911. Dispatchers told her to leave the trailer. Shortly after she did, the fire spread rapidly.

The blaze destroyed the kitchen and living room, and Adams lost many of the materials she uses to teach Spanish. She said many items from the bedrooms, including clothing and important papers and documents, were salvaged.

The Red Cross has lodged Adams and her son at a local hotel since the fire, and she will be staying in housing provided by St. Vincent de Paul next week as she makes long-term plans.

Adams, who also has four adult children living outside Alaska, moved to Juneau eight years ago. She said she is thankful for the help she has received from the community so far.

"The community here has been wonderful," she said. "We're very lucky to be in Juneau. I feel very special to be here."

An account has been established in Elia Adams' name at Wells Fargo Bank. Donations to assist the family can be accepted at any of the three Wells Fargo branches in Juneau.

Andrew Krueger can be reached at

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