Blaze destroys Auke Bay store

Posted: Sunday, February 10, 2008

Fire destroyed much of a fishing, food and liquor store in Auke Bay early Saturday morning.

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Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Michael Penn / Juneau Empire

The cause of the fire at Fisherman's Bend, located at 11957 Glacier Highway, was not immediately known and there were no reported injuries or fatalities, according to Capital City Fire and Rescue Chief Eric Mohrmann.

The store was attached to a house, which was also mostly destroyed by the blaze. But the store's nearby gas pumps were not visibly damaged by the fire.

The building and business were owned by Troy and Sharon Andrew and the store was managed by their son, Rick Wolfenberger.

The Andrews were spending the winter in Phoenix, Ariz., and were not in the residential part of the building, Wolfenberger said. The last employee had left the store at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Wolfenberger said.

The blaze was first reported at about midnight, with fire crews showing up shortly afterwards, Mohrmann said.

An explosion caused by smoke accumulation blew the front doors off the building soon after the fire was reported, Mohrmann said.

Six fire personnel entered the building and spent about five to 10 minutes trying to locate the seat of the fire but were unsuccessful, Mohrmann said. He ordered the crews out of the building because the fire had become too intense and it was too dangerous to have people inside.

"It was obvious we weren't making any headway," he said.

Firefighters then shifted their efforts to keep the fire from spreading, Mohrmann said, and sprayed it with multiple high-powered hoses from outside.

The building's roof began collapsing at about 3:30 a.m. The crews then used a ladder to spray the fire from above and spent roughly three more hours fighting the blaze until it was mostly burnt out, Mohrmann said.

Mohrmann said eight staff and 29 volunteer firefighters worked to put out the blaze, combating very low temperatures and continually frozen equipment.

"It was quite a significant effort and it makes me extremely proud," Mohrmann said.

By noon on Saturday fire crews were still putting out "hot spots" of burning rubble from outside the building. A small trickle of smoke was coming out of the corner of roof that was still standing.

Paul Smith, division chief of volunteers for the fire department, said the building was still too dangerous to enter at that time.

"We don't want anybody going inside that could fall through the floor or have the roof collapse on them," Smith said.

Wolfenberger stood nearby Saturday afternoon as family and friends came to comfort him. A few onlookers stopped to take pictures of the smoldering wreckage.

Wolfenberger said the building was insured, but the store's four employees would likely be out of work. He said his parents, who bought the store in 1974, had been notified and would be coming to Juneau shortly.

"Just like all of us, (they are) devastated," Wolfenberger said.

Linda Foreman, Wolfenberger's cousin, said losing the store would be a tough blow to the area's fishermen.

"In the summertime it was really busy because this was where you got your fishing license and if you forgot some tackle on your boat you came on up to get that, and snacks and bait and liquor and off you went," Foreman said.

J.P. Dalton and his family stopped to take pictures. He said Fisherman's Bend was one of the few places people who lived out the road could pop in for the essentials.

"We've lived here since eighty-four, so it's a place that's always been here and now it's not," Dalton said. "You just hate to lose something like that."

• Contact reporter Alan Sudermanat 523-2268 or by e-mail at alan.suderman@juneauempire.com





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