Home of retired school principal destroyed by fire

Firefighter sustains minor injury; cause of fire uncertain

Posted: Wednesday, December 20, 2000

One firefighter suffered a leg injury battling a blaze that gutted a house on Mountain Side Drive on Tuesday night.

"This was our dream house," homeowner Laurie Schoenberger said this morning.

"The windows in the front with the view of the airport, the cathedral ceiling and wonderful sunlight streaming in" combined to make the house welcoming, she said. "It has always been a sanctuary for us."

More than 50 firefighters responded to the blaze that began on the arm of a love seat. The alarm came in to Capital City Fire & Rescue at 6:47 p.m.

A 34-year-old firefighter suffered a knee sprain and a wrist sprain, said Marijo Toner, regional affairs coordinator for Bartlett Regional Hospital. He was discharged home in good condition at 9:05 p.m., she said.

"We are still trying to determine what caused it," said Fire Marshal Randy Waters. "There is probably $100,000 worth of damage there."

"We had some people over and they were in the kitchen with my husband, Jerry," Laurie Schoenberger said. "The smoke detector went off and my husband ran into the living room to see. The arm of the love seat near the window was on fire."

There was a Christmas tree elsewhere in the room, but it didn't seem to be associated with the fire, Schoenberger said.

"There was a candle on the end table, but a guest who was trying to put out the fire said he saw the candle and it was OK," she added. "We don't know if it was caused by the electrical outlet behind the couch, or what it could have been. We have no idea what started it."

The two-story house at 4480 Mountain Side Drive was built in 1993, according to the city assessor's office, and contained 2,839 square feet, including the garage. Its assessed value for 2000 was $296,100.

"The inside of the house is gutted and there are holes from the top floor to the bottom. There is water damage and soot, but the firefighters did manage to save some of the pictures in the hall to the garage; those will be nice for our children to have," Laurie Schoenberger said.

The Schoenbergers' son, Garrett, 18, was home for the holidays when the fire broke out. Laurie Schoenberger said. A daughter, Summer, 23, lives in Denver.

Jerry Schoenberger was principal of Riverbend Elementary School in the spring, but then retired. Laurie Schoenberger is in her 11th year as a literacy leader at Auke Bay Elementary School, she said.

The Schoenbergers spent the night with Laurie's sister, Dee Dawson. Today Jerry Schoenberger is dealing with insurance claims.

"You just have to put (the fire) into perspective," Laurie Schoenberger said this morning.

"It is only a material loss. I am in shock but we will get through this. I am just thankful we were able to get out. I don't want to make too much of this because other people have real tragedies in their lives," she said.

Ann Chandonnet can be reached at achandonnet@juneauempire.com.

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