This article has been updated with more information from the fire department.
For the second time this week, there was a large fire in the Mendenhall Valley and fire officials aren’t ruling out arson.
At just after midnight Friday morning, Capital City Fire/Rescue responded to a fire that began in a storage shed behind a single-wide mobile home at Kodzoff Acres Mobile Home Park, according to a CCFR statement.
In the statement, CCFR Fire Marshal Dan Jager said the exact cause of the fire is yet to be determined, but there were reports of suspicious activity in the area prior to fire responders arriving. Jager said multiple neighbors said in interviews that they heard a loud bang, which some described as more of a thud, and then saw a tall man running through several yards near the mobile home in question.
“They heard the banging sound, they see this guy running through yards, and then there was a vehicle near the trailer fire, and it was described as leaving at a high speed,” Jager said.
Jager said neighbors weren’t able to provide many details about this man, but he appeared to be wearing a sweatshirt. Jager said the man was seen running and leaving within the 10 minutes before responders arrived.
CCFR Assistant Chief Ed Quinto said the one person in the trailer at the time was woken up by a smoke alarm and was able to escape unharmed. The trailer, according to a statement from CCFR, is a total loss. Jager said there was no renter’s insurance, and he wasn’t sure if there was insurance on the trailer itself.
Quinto arrived on the scene first, he said in an interview Friday, and said about half the trailer was on fire when he first saw it. Power lines above the trailer were also starting to catch fire, he said, and he shut off the power immediately. Responders were able to quickly knock down the fire, according to a CCFR statement.
A fire in the early hours of Tuesday morning was a similar scenario, Quinto said. Flames had consumed a shed, a truck and a motor home by the time responders arrived at the home in the 9500 block of Mendenhall Loop Road, Quinto said. Both times, the number of first responders was somewhat limited, Quinto said.
“On both fires, the initial first five minutes were scary because I was only working with one crew from station three,” Quinto said Friday.
Jager said he isn’t ruling out arson with the Mendenhall Loop fire because his investigators have not been able to locate a heat source that could have accidentally started the fire. With suspicious activity reported prior to Friday morning’s fire as well, Jager is also not ruling out an intentional cause.
Jager said there’s no reason to connect the two fires just yet, as the homes are a fair distance apart and there are still very few details known about the cause of both. He said if anybody knows anything, they’re encouraged to call his office at 586-0260.
Friday the 13th continued to be a busy one for CCFR after the fire at Kodzoff, Quinto said. A little after 2 a.m., CCFR assisted with a rescue of a man who fell off the dock downtown.
At about 5 a.m., Quinto said, a call came in about a fire on a fishing vessel at Harris Harbor. He said that by the time personnel arrived, the fire was out.
The busy morning came a day after a presentation to the City and Borough of Juneau Committee of the Whole regarding a possible increase in staffing for the fire department. The city had commissioned a study from research firm Fitch and Associates to look into how to make the most of the department’s resources as call volumes increase.
The presentation resulted in the Committee of the Whole voting to draft an ordinance to add between four and six staff members to the force. While the Fitch and Associates study recommended adding four 12-hour staff members, CCFR chiefs and employees expressed the desire for more 24-hour staff.
Medical calls were also going on during these fire and rescue calls Friday morning, and Quinto said the morning exemplified the need for more resources.
“That’s why we’re hoping for additional manpower,” Quinto said.
• Contact reporter Alex McCarthy at 523-2271 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @akmccarthy.