Fire strikes trailer second time

Chief says cause of blaze is suspicious

Posted: Tuesday, March 28, 2000

For the second time in two months, a suspicious fire has burned the Mendenhall Valley home of Dusty and Cheriess Weich.

Firefighters received a call about 12:15 p.m. Monday that the trailer in Kodzoff Acres Mobile Home Park was burning. They arrived a few minutes later and quickly contained the blaze, which started in the kitchen.

At the scene Monday, Max Mielke, volunteer chief for Glacier Fire District, estimated about $10,000 damage. The trailer had about $25,000 damage in an earlier fire, on Feb. 5.

The February fire has been under investigation. Mielke said Monday's fire was also of suspicious origin.

``It appears to have started on the kitchen stove. They had some sealed laundry stacked on top of the stove,'' he said. ``They're not really living here yet, so it doesn't appear they were using the stove.''

Next-door neighbor Tim DeHart said the couple had been working steadily for the past seven weeks to repair the damages so they could move back in. ``I think the whole community around here has been helping out.''

DeHart's wife, Kathy Budke, was home a few minutes past noon Monday. She said someone frantically knocked on her door and asked to use the phone.

``He said, `The trailer next door is on fire again,''' she said. ``I said, `Call 911.' He dialed and then handed me the phone. He couldn't even talk. He was too shook up.''

Budke said she could see smoke coming off the roof. ``You could see flames in the kitchen, and then you heard windows busting out.''

Mielke said firefighters were able to contain the blaze within five minutes of their arrival.

Dusty Weich arrived as firefighters were extinguishing the fire, and Cheriess pulled in a few minutes later. She screamed, ``Not again,'' and collapsed.

The young couple moved into

the trailer a year and a half ago, and Dusty Weich, a Superior Builders employee, spent his spare time renovating the fixerupper. He had nearly finished remodeling the trailer when the February fire occurred.

The couple did not have homeowner's insurance at the time of the first fire. Dusty Weich told the Juneau Empire Feb. 12 that local businesses donated clothing and building materials, and a score of friends, church and family members pitched in to help clean and repair their home.

They had nearly finished repairing the damage from the February fire when Monday's blaze happened.

Juneau Crime Line has offered $1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest or indictment of the person or people responsible for the February fire. The Crime Line number is 586-4243. Callers are guaranteed anonymity and given a number to use when claiming a reward of up to $1,000.

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