Jack Loranger spent 40 years building his rural Washougal house and three hours watching it crumble into ash.
Distraught but not defeated in the face of such an enormous loss, Loranger decided there was only one thing he could do — build it all over again.
Loranger’s house on Krostad Road burned to the ground on Aug. 16 after a faulty electrical cord sparked a small fire in a closet in one of the upstairs rooms. Loranger, who was inside the house when the fire began, ran outside and tried to contain the growing blaze with a garden hose, but his efforts were not successful.
His son, Jake, also was home when the fire broke out. His wife, Lori, a volunteer facilitator for the Youth Empowerment Shelter in The Dalles, Oregon, was working, and didn’t return until about 8 p.m., by which time firefighters from the Camas-Washougal, Stevenson, North Bonneville and Skamania County fire departments had already doused the flames.
The house was declared a total loss.
“There was nothing to salvage,” Loranger said. “I got my truck out of the driveway before it burned up, which was great because I thought I might have to live in it for awhile. Then I stood on the street and watched the house burn. We lost pretty much everything. My son and I had the clothes on our backs. My wife had her purse and the clothes on her back.”
Rather than wallow in self-pity, the Lorangers said they are trying their best to think about the future instead of the past.
“I’ve tried to not focus on the loss, and focus on how to get this put back together,” Loranger said. “It hasn’t been too bad. I’ve had people say, ‘If that was me, I’d be devastated and depressed.’ Well, (feeling) that way doesn’t get to me the next step for the future. … The first week, we stayed with our daughter and two granddaughters. We slept with them in their bedroom. We had such good support there. I think that’s what got us through it.”
Washougal resident John Bryden, who has known Jack Loranger for 20 years, said the Lorangers are handling their situation “pretty well.”
“At this stage of their lives, a lot of other people are ‘resetting’ because of divorce or death or children growing up. They get to reset their lives because of the fire. That’s kind of how they’re looking at it,” Bryden said. “I tried to explain to Jack that it could’ve been so much worse. We could’ve been looking at three funerals. I understand that it sucks to lose 40 years of memories and knick-knacks and whatever else, but he could’ve lost his wife and son. I think that kind of sunk in.”
After the fire, Loranger, with the help of Bryden and several other friends, cleaned and excavated the property, then began the rebuilding process.
Loranger said he already knows exactly how he wants to build his new home.
“It’s not going to be a castle like it was, with the towers and stuff,” he said. “We were able to save about 2,000 square feet of foundation, including the pool. I’ll build two stories on top of the foundation. There will be enough living area for us, and I’ll put a great big garden roof on top. After I’m done with the house, if I still have enough money, I’ll build a shop. And it will be fireproof.”
If everything goes according to plan, the new house should be complete by next summer, Loranger said, adding that his biggest challenge will be the weather.
“I’m trying to get the ‘shell’ up before the bad weather hits out here,” he explained. “I know we have at least a couple more good weeks of sun, but when snow and sleet hits out here, I can’t do much outside.”
Loranger began building the house in 1981, and slowly added on, piece by piece, year after year. He was in the process of adding another 1,000 square feet to the 6,500-square-foot house when the fire happened. The house featured five upper-level “towers,” a rooftop garden and an outdoor pool.
“The house itself was kind of an icon,” Loranger said. “It had a big castle design, and it was huge, so a lot of people knew where it was and what it was.”
Loranger is known for his glass-blowing work, which he has done from his home since 2005. He estimates that he’s made about 800 pieces per year and that “thousands of people” have come to his shop in the past 15 years to watch him work, give demonstrations and craft a piece or two of their own.
“He’s a good teacher and a good guy,” said Bryden, who has blown glass with Loranger for many years. “He doesn’t hold onto his knowledge like a trade secret. He’s willing to tell you what he knows. He’s a really relaxed person. He gives off a ‘grandpa’ or ‘Santa Claus’ vibe. He puts others at ease by being around them.”
Bryden established a GoFundMe account (gof undme.com/f/jack-and-lori-loranger-fire-fund) to solicit funds to help the Lorangers, who had only $100,000 worth of home insurance at the time of the fire. As of Sept. 4, the account had raised $26,413.
Loranger said that he “didn’t really expect anything from anybody.”
“That’s what blew me away,” he said. “Somebody put together a meal trade to keep us fed. People have stopped by to give me cash — sometimes $400, $500. Right now, we’re staying with people that I had never really met. They had come into the shop maybe five times. They said, ‘Hey, we have a bed-and-breakfast that we’re not using, so you can stay there.'”
“It’s just overwhelming how much support we’re getting,” he said. “It’s a great feeling. I never tear up about the house, but when I think about the people who are helping me, I’m overwhelmed. People are flocking to us, asking what they can do to help.”