Capital City Fire/Rescue and the Juneau Police Department are investigating a carport fire occurring on March 6, 2021, seen above, as an intentionally set fire. (Courtesy photo / CCFR)

Capital City Fire/Rescue and the Juneau Police Department are investigating a carport fire occurring on March 6, 2021, seen above, as an intentionally set fire. (Courtesy photo / CCFR)

Police and fire marshal investigating Smith Hall carport fire as arson

“The question we’re dealing with is, why would someone burn senior citizen’s property or automobiles.”

An early Saturday morning fire in a carport near the airport is being investigated as arson, said Capital City Fire/Rescue’s fire marshal in an interview.

The fire began at around 3:30 a.m. at Smith Hall, a property managed by the Juneau Society of St. Vincent de Paul, and destroyed three cars while damaging four more, as well as slagging the carport itself.

“Early on, when I was talking with the first arriving firefighters, they were describing fire conditions that are not typical for that type of construction,” said fire marshal Dan Jager in a phone interview. “We’re also looking at video footage that shows an unidentified person walking off in the distance. Shortly after they leave, there’s a large flash and lots of fire coming out of the carport.”

[Firefighters extinguish early morning carport fire]

The flare of the ignition could be seen reflecting off nearby windows in footage taken from businesses in the area, Jager said.

“The one thing we’re fortunate about is, there’s 58 residential properties that we’re grateful are safe,” said Dave Ringle, general manager of St. Vincent de Paul. “It’s too close to residents. We’re just hoping the investigation finds a clear cause.”

UPDATE: Teal Street Fire Investigation The CCFR Fire Marshal Office and Juneau Police Department are investigating the…Posted by Capital City Fire Rescue on Saturday, 6 March 2021

There were enough red flags with this fire to call it arson, Jager said, the largest of 2021 so far. It’s now the subject of a joint investigation between CCFR and the Juneau Police Department.

“I’ve dealt with larger cases in the past, but this is definitely a significant one,” Jager said. “The question we’re dealing with is, why would someone burn senior citizen’s property or automobiles?”

The destroyed carport was assessed at approximately $40,000, Jager said. Ringle said they’re currently working with residents and their insurance to assess the vehicle damage.

Capital City Fire/Rescue and the Juneau Police Department are investigating a carport fire occurring on March 6, 2021, seen above, as an intentionally set fire. (Courtesy photo / CCFR)

Capital City Fire/Rescue and the Juneau Police Department are investigating a carport fire occurring on March 6, 2021, seen above, as an intentionally set fire. (Courtesy photo / CCFR)

“We’ve got three that are completely totaled. There’s also four that have varying degrees of heat damage,” Jager said. “With the heat damage, you have to look at the value of the vehicle.”

Much of the fire damage to the vehicles is replaceable, though finding parts for some vehicles that are of an older vintage may be an expensive proposition, Ringle said. Getting a hold of a suspect is going to be a process of investigation that could hinge on a single point of data, Jager said.

“If anyone has any early photos or videos, we’ll try and gather that as well. Even the smallest details can actually be really helpful,” Jager said. “There’s a lot of little puzzle pieces in an arson case. That’s how we solve them.”

Think you might know something?

Anyone with information on these cases is asked to contact Jager at dan.jager@juneau.org or 907-586-0269, or CCFR at 907-586-6000.

• Contact reporter Michael S. Lockett at (757) 621-1197 or mlockett@juneauempire.com.

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