The kitchen is closed at Rose's


Staff writer

Rose’s Hiway Inn, a 60-year-old landmark restaurant on Pacific Highway South, was destroyed in a pre-dawn fire Monday.

The outer walls remained as the sun came up, but the Federal Way Fire Department ruled the longtime eatery a complete loss. Damage to the structure and contents was estimated at $750,000. The value of the building and property is listed at $1.5 million on King County property tax rolls, according to officials.

The Federal Way department, which has a fire protection contract for the Rose’s area even though it’s in Des Moines, received a report of the fire at 3:30 a.m. and arrived at the site at 3:34. When the roof of the restaurant collapsed a minute later, firefighters were forced to use an aerial ladder and their ladder pipe to pump 1,000 gallons of water per minute onto the flames, officials said.

“The flames were near the tree tops,” said James Johnson, who lives in a blue trailer just behind Rose’s. “You’re looking at a historic landmark totally destroyed.”

The fire was stopped at about 5:30 but was believed to be still smoldering in the basement where it started. Two heavy roof structures that collapsed covered the basement, so firefighters remained at the site throughout Monday and overnight in case the fire resumed. Cranes were to arrive Tuesday to lift the debris and let firefighters check for any remaining fire, said Fire Department spokeswoman Monica Colby.

The cause of the fire hadn’t been determined Monday afternoon by King County fire marshal investigators. Specially trained dogs were to be used to sniff out possible accelerants used in an arson –– standard procedure whenever the property loss in a fire tops $500,000, according to officials.

“This is so bad. It’s the worst thing that has ever happened in our lives,” said owner Gurdot Thind.

Thind and his wife, Pabneet, live in Lynnwood. He said they bought Rose’s seven months ago and now don’t know what they will do. Fortunately, the business was covered by fire insurance, he said.

Rose’s was known as a good place to stop for food and rest along Highway 99 –– now Pacific Highway South –– as travelers made their way between Seattle and Tacoma back in the days before Interstate 5 connected the two cities. It was the only restaurant along that stretch of 99 when it opened, said Ernie Olson of the Historical Society of Federal Way.

“Their specialty was chicken –– not deep-fried, but real, fried chicken,” said the 89-year-old Olson, who came to the Federal Way area in 1947. “It was family-style –– coffee, mashed potatoes, gravy and biscuits with loads of jam. At one time they even raised their own chickens. When it opened in 1939, dinner cost 75 cents.”

The restaurant was opened originally by Rose Wilder, who ran the restaurant until 1967.

Federal Way Mayor Jeanne Burbidge said that she was dismayed by the loss.

“I’ve lived here 36 years,” Burbidge said. “I have fond memories of the chicken dinners with our kids and their grandparents. It was a delightful place.”

Staff writer Kenny Ching: 925-5565

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