As the year draws to an end, investigators are still searching for the person or people responsible for four suspicious fires that took place earlier this year.
It’s not unusual for investigations into so-called “incendiary fires” (fires that are believed to have been set intentionally) to take this long, Capital City Fire/Rescue Fire Marshal Dan Jager said.
“Incendiary fire investigations take a long time to process,” Jager said via email Thursday, “but can be successfully prosecuted with the help from the public.”
At about 5 a.m. July 10, two joggers were running along Mendenhall Loop Road when they saw a fire spreading at a home in the 9500 block of the road. The joggers called 911 and Capital City Fire/Rescue personnel arrived shortly afterward. They found a 10-by-10 shed, a 2005 Chevy truck, a 1991 Ford class B RV and surrounding trees on fire, CCFR Assistant Chief Ed Quinto said at the time.
Talking later that day with the Empire, Quinto called the scene “basically a big fireball.” The property owners weren’t home and nobody was harmed, but CCFR Fire Marshal Dan Jager estimated the losses to be about $25,000 (the home was insured). Jager also couldn’t find an obvious cause of the fire, and said the circumstances around the fire were suspicious.
Over the next two months, three more suspicious fires occurred, all within a few miles of each other.
At just after midnight on Friday, July 13, a fire claimed a storage shed and most of a single-wide home at Kodzoff Acres Mobile Home Park. It was just a few miles away from where the Tuesday fire had been. Jager said at the time that the second fire also appeared suspicious.
Neighbors told Jager that they had heard a loud bang or a thud and then saw a tall man in a sweatshirt running through several yards near the mobile home where the fire was. Then, Jager said, neighbors saw a car of some kind leave the scene in a hurry.
On the morning of Saturday, Aug. 11, a fire at a double-wide trailer in Switzer Village in the Lemon Creek area claimed the life of a dog. Once again, no people were home at the time of the fire, and once again, Jager found the circumstances of the fire to be suspicious. The home was a total loss.
At about 1:30 a.m. Friday, Sept. 7, a home in the 1100 block of Slim Williams Way caught fire. Damage to the property was $20,000, but once again, nobody was home at the time of the fire. One firefighter suffered a minor injury that did not require medical attention, authorities said at the time. Jager determined the fire started in a back bedroom of an attached home.
Finding out where a fire started hasn’t been a problem for Jager and his team, he said. The problem is finding what exactly caused the fires.
“What stood out on these fires was the lack of a readily identifiable competent heat source,” Jager said via email Thursday. “Through the investigations, it was determined that such causes like electrical or mechanical malfunction did not occur, natural causes did not occur, there were no candles or incense burning devices used, no discarded smoking materials were used to start these fires.”
Fire investigations include examining burn patterns, interviewing owners or witnesses, and looking at videos or photos of the fires. CCFR is hoping anybody with any photos, videos or information reaches out to one of the authorities conducting the investigation. Those authorities are the Fire Marshal’s Office (586-5322), the Juneau Police Department (586-0600) and Juneau Crime Line (523-7700). Crime Line is a nonprofit that assists police departments in their investigations.
• Contact reporter Alex McCarthy at 523-2271 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @akmccarthy.