Town helps rebuild fire-ravaged home

Couple had almost finished remodeling house just before blaze

Posted: Monday, February 14, 2000

From the outside, the trailer home of Dusty and Cheriess Weich doesn't look too bad. The blue metal roof and most of the vertical board siding are untouched.

The inside is another matter.

The walls are black. The white carpet is gray. The smell of smoke from the Feb. 5 fire hangs heavy in the air. Essentially, the place is gutted.

When the young couple moved in a year and a half ago, all the walls were supported by two-by-twos, and the exterior was covered with metal siding. Dusty Weich, a Superior Builders employee, spent his spare time renovating the fixer-upper. He'd replaced all the two-by-twos with two-by-fours, installed new siding and was just putting up oak trim inside when the fire happened.

``I was almost finished,'' Dusty said Saturday as he measured a piece of Sheetrock.

``We were almost through remodeling,'' echoed Cheriess as she manhandled a chunk of debris out the door. ``Our appliances were only three months old.''

The 1,200-square-foot trailer in Kodzoff Acres Mobile Home Park was damaged by fire about 10 p.m. Feb. 5, when the couple was away. They returned to discover smoke and called the fire department. The fire started in a bathroom, which is unusual, and the fire marshal is still investigating.

Dusty and Cheriess did not have fire insurance, and damage to their home and belongings is estimated at $25,000.

Dusty Weich found it a ``strange coincidence'' that he had been working on a Gastineau Avenue six-plex that went up in flames Jan. 30, and that his own Mendenhall Valley home went up a week later.

``But I don't think they're related,'' he said with a shrug.

A week after their trailer caught fire, Juneau rallied around the Weiches as it often does when residents are in trouble.

``Galligaskins donated coats for both of us, and shirts,'' Dusty said, plucking at the navy turtleneck he was wearing.

Valley Lumber donated 40 sheets of Sheetrock. AlCan Electric donated electrical supplies. The couple could still use some insulation, windows and furniture, but complete strangers have donated clothes for Cheriess. And the Saturday work party brought out more help.

``We've had probably 20 different people off and on - lots of family and friends,'' Dusty said. ``The community has really been great,'' he added.

Dave Simonson was framing a closet a few feet away. ``I am a good friend and belong to the same congregation, Jehovah's Witnesses,'' Simonson said.

Polishing the end of a piece of copper pipe, Alex Hamilton worked on the empty, blackened bathroom. Hamilton, a self-employed home repairman, said he had joined the work party because Cheriess is his niece, and because he is also a Jehovah's Witness.

Ramiro Rivera helped by wiping ash from a living room mirror that covered the top half of one wall.

``These are my friends,'' Rivera said.

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