Monday night blaze leaves two homeless

Posted: Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Left with only the clothes and windbreaker he was wearing when his home burned Monday night, and with his roommate in the hospital for facial burns, Gregory Williams said they will just have to start over.

"We're too old to be fussing and worrying about material stuff," said Williams, 45, holding an umbrella the way he would the cane that he lost in the fire at 1540 Glacier Avenue.

His roommate, James Payne, 46, was in the intensive care unit at Bartlett Regional Medical Center with burns and blisters on his face, Williams said after getting help from the American Red Cross in Juneau.

Payne told him he was burned trying to put out the fire, which started when an oil lamp was knocked off a coffee table in the living room.

Williams said he was more concerned about Payne's injuries than the house. Payne, he said, was retired from a maintenance job at the Federal Building.

Juneau Fire Marshal Richard Etheridge said the fire was reported at 10:22 p.m. Monday. The house, with one floor and a full basement, "was a complete loss. There's nothing salvageable. The structure is unsafe to enter."

Although he had not determined the specific cause of the fire Tuesday he called it accidental and ruled out arson. "We have no evidence of any illegal activity," he said.

Payne met the ambulance when it arrived to take him from the hospital. Payne was in stable condition and didn't need to be flown elsewhere to be treated for the injuries to his face.

The weather wasn't a factor in fighting the blaze, but Capital City Fire and Rescue crews had to deal with a live power line coming down and crossing the hose line, Etheridge said.

While that delayed the attack on the fire, he said, it didn't lead to the loss of the house. When firefighters arrived, the blaze was burning through the roof and crews quickly had to go on the defensive to keep it from spreading.

Williams said he had gone to put gas in his truck and returned to see his home ablaze. "I spent the night in my truck," he added.

He said he couldn't even sell his truck without first filing to replace the title that burned in the house.

"What I own is what I have on," he said. "It's gone."

He was directed to the Red Cross on Tuesday morning.

Elayne Boyce, district director of the American Red Cross in Southeast Alaska, said the organization has placed Williams in a Juneau motel for three nights and provided him with emergency vouchers for food and clothing.

She said they help people in times of emergency with gifts made possible by contributions from the public. People wanting to help the fire victims directly also can contact her office, which can pass along assistance to the individuals, Boyce said.

The Juneau office can be reached at 463-5713.

Williams said he appreciated that help, but doesn't know what he's going to do next. "We've got to start over. That's all."

• Tony Carroll can be reached at

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