Fire damages Tulalip home, workshop

TULALIP — Jess Roe awoke Friday morning to a friend’s yell and the smell of smoke.

Just feet from his mobile home, flames shot from the workshop where he builds swords and knives.

“It was a holocaust,” the 84-year-old Korean War veteran said, gazing at the wreckage. “It looks like the middle of Seoul in Korea.”

Firefighters rushed to Roe’s Tulalip property at 4 a.m. and tried to protect his home from the blaze, said Donnie Rooks, a firefighter with Snohomish County Fire District 15 on the Tulalip Reservation.

Though the fire burned a portion of the home, Roe was grateful that firefighters were able to save the structure. Roe said he plans to continue living in the home.

Fire crews were concerned about several propane tanks used in the workshop and threatened by the fire. None of them exploded, said Gary Bontrager, a fire inspector with the Snohomish County Fire Marshal’s office.

No one was hurt. Damage is estimated around $65,000, he said.

The fire appears to be an accident, but an investigation continues.

Crews from Getchell, Marysville and North County Fire and EMS also helped fight the fire.

Friends helped Roe sift through the charred remains of his shop Friday. They removed pieces of metal, knives and melted tools from the debris.

Roe’s companion of 34 years, Susan Illes, died seven weeks ago and he is still reeling from the loss. The fire was another tough blow, but he said he’ll move on.

“I’ve learned from my mistakes,” he said. “If you don’t, you won’t live long — and I’m a survivor.”

Herald Writer Jackson Holtz contributed to this story.

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