Fire destroys Highlands home

Posted: Sunday, April 22, 2001

A fire destroyed the Evergreen Avenue home of Jean and George W. Rogers early Saturday while the couple was in San Francisco.

"They went down Friday for an opera Dad was just dying to see, a Greek tragedy. Thank God they were not at home," said their daughter, Sidney Fadaoff.

Their tenant, Mary Lorence, who had lived in the children's wing of the sprawling residence for about two months, escaped uninjured with the clothes on her back and her alert wire-haired fox terrier, Olly.

"He started barking, and I was telling him to be quiet. But then I heard windows popping out. I thought it was maybe bears or that there were people partying outside. I looked out my (second floor) window and saw flames coming from the chimney, so I called 911," Lorence said as she stood with Olly, Fadaoff and neighbor Sue Baxter on the far side of the street about 5:30 a.m.

Lorence's call reached Capital City Fire & Rescue at 4:01 a.m.

About 40 firefighters responded within a few minutes, but the building was already 50 percent involved when they arrived, said incident commander Capt. Ed Quinto.

To fight the glowing blaze, yellow hose had to be snaked from hydrants one and two blocks away. The fire was considered under control at 6:08, but firefighters were still looking for hot spots and mopping up after 10 a.m.

"Basically, the whole building can be written off as a loss," Quinto said.

Acrid smoke and bits of blackened paper drifted over the Highlands area for hours afterward, with some smoke collecting in a pocket downtown against Starr Hill.

George Rogers is a retired economist. Jean Rogers is a well-known children's author of books such as "Runaway Mittens," "The Secret Moose" and "King Island Christmas." The King Island tale of an Eskimo celebration was recently revived as a musical stage production.

The Rogers bought their property at 1790 Evergreen in 1945 and had lived there for more than 40 years, their daughter said. "Dad built this house from a miner's shack that they moved up onto the property. They had two adopted kids at that point, and they just added on as the family grew. I grew up in a sawdust zone," Fadaoff said.

Fadaoff waited to call her parents in California with the news until she knew they would be awake. She anticipated they would regret the loss of original paintings by Juneau artist Rie Munoz and other treasured possessions from their long and productive lives in Juneau, but she was reassured by their measured response.

"My parents are not materialistic people, and they didn't raise us to be materialistic. Mom's biggest concern was her photos" of the house at various stages and her six children growing up. "My father said, 'I am going to have a cup of coffee and sit down and design myself another house,'" Fadaoff said.

The cause of the fire was still under investigation by inspector Mike Tagaban Saturday afternoon.

Ann Chandonnet can be reached at:

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