Future cloudy for those affected by fire

ROGERS CITY – After fire destroyed a historic Rogers City building Monday, its owner and tenants are considering what to do next.

The blaze that destroyed the former Fred Fisch Brewery started as a grease fire, and started in one of the apartments at the building’s north end, Rogers City Area Fire Department Chief Mike Kroll said. While he hasn’t yet spoken to the tenant of that apartment, he believes the fire to be accidental.

Firefighters were called to the building, located on N. Third Street north of Superior Street, at around 11 a.m. Monday and didn’t clear the scene until more than 11 hours later, Kroll said. Windy conditions combined with cold temperatures made the fire difficult to fight. The building dated back to 1912, and its age and construction compounded this as well.

“We had to rotate guys out to keep them warm, and we had to have the lines cracked at all times so the trucks would not freeze up,” he said.

The building is a total loss, and Kroll expected to get a cost estimate of the damages soon, he said.

Luanne Bannasch owns the building, her son Brian said. It was insured, and adjusters have yet to see it to assess the situation. His brother lived in one of four apartments, and was among the several tenants who lost their possessions in the fire.

Jack’s Barber Shop, a business located in part of the building’s first floor, has been forced to close as well, Bannasch said.

“We hope we’re able to do something to get the Jack’s Barber Shop location back over there, but at this point there’s no set plans,” he said.

While the fire destroyed the shop, owner Jack Myers and his son, Andy, were able to get everything out before the fire spread that far, he said. He received a call Monday morning from someone – he never did find out who it was – who told him about the fire.

“It was more or less a precaution at that point, because it didn’t look like it was very bad,” he said. “The longer it went, the worse it got. Obviously, we did the right thing by getting everything out of there.”

The fire broke out on a day the barber shop would have been closed anyway, Myers said.

When Myers started the barber shop 49 years ago, he did so in a space built by Julius Dehring, he said. The carpenter owned the building at the time and used it as a workshop. Over the years, another business and later apartments were added to the building. Myers has been “more or less” retired for about three years; Andy has taken over, although he still helps out.

“After this many years, it’s kind of like going home, but not any more,” he said.

Although the business wasn’t insured, Myers and his son already are working on plans to reopen the barber shop in another location, he said.

As of now, the city is working to keep people away from the potentially dangerous site, City Manager Mark Slown said.

“Then at some point, we’ll evaluate the options with the site, and whether or not the owner of the property has a preference of what they do with it,” he said.

Kroll decided the damaged walls needed to be demolished, Slown said, but this can’t happen until the gas is shut off. Shutting off the gas to the building also would shut it off to other properties, and single-digit temperatures made this impractical. The issue could take some time to resolve.

Jordan Travis can be reached via email at jtravis@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5688.