Smoke and fire damage in the men’s bathroom at the Mendenhall Mall on Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2018. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Smoke and fire damage in the men’s bathroom at the Mendenhall Mall on Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2018. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Toilet paper arson burns mall bathroom

Suspect sent to hospital with mental health concerns, police say

A man who appeared to be having a mental health crisis is suspected of starting a fire in a Mendenhall Mall bathroom Tuesday, authorities say.

The small fire, which Capital City Fire/Rescue Fire Marshal Dan Jager said began with a flaming roll of toilet paper, didn’t cause any injuries. Juneau Police Department officers identified the suspect as a 42-year-old Juneau man, JPD Lt. Krag Campbell said via email Wednesday. Campbell said the man has not been charged with a crime and JPD isn’t publicly identifying the suspect at this point.

“The reason we are not releasing the name is because after JPD detained him, it seemed like the person was suffering more from a mental health crisis,” Campbell said. “So the person went to the hospital rather than the jail.”

The bathroom blaze capped off a chaotic afternoon for CCFR responders, Assistant Chief Tod Chambers said Wednesday. Some crew members were responding to an alarm at the University of Alaska Southeast when a call came in at 5:12 p.m. that there was heavy smoke in the bathroom at the Mendenhall Mall.

“That was a fairly confusing time,” Chambers, who was the chief on duty, said. “We had multiple calls going on at once. We had two alarms going off simultaneously. We had a fire alarm at UAS, and then smoke in the bathroom (at the mall) was what we were going out for.”

Chambers and what he called “a minimal crew” — Jager said it was just two CCFR responders and a JPD officer — arrived at the mall and found thick, dark smoke in the men’s bathroom behind Verizon, he said. There were still people shopping and there were even children still at the nearby daycare when CCFR arrived, Chambers said. They didn’t have enough firefighters to do a full evacuation, Chambers said, so they tried to knock down the fire as rapidly as possible.

They found toilet paper burning in the bathroom, Chambers said, and quickly extinguished the fire. Jager said the JPD officer helped put out the fire. Jager said the toilet paper was used to start the fire, and that when the fire consumed the plastic container around the toilet paper, that caused the dark smoke.

The fire caused about $5,000 in damage, Jager wrote in a press release. Investigators with CCFR and JPD looked at video from the store and were able to identify the suspect, according to the release.

• Contact reporter Alex McCarthy at 523-2271 or Follow him on Twitter at @akmccarthy.

More in News

A Princess Cruise Line ship is docked in Juneau on Aug. 25, 2021. (Michael Lockett / Juneau Empire File)
Ships in Port for the week of June 26

Here’s what to expect this week.

The Alaska Department of Health And Social Services building in Juneau has no visible signs indicating the department is splitting into two agencies as of Friday. Top officials at the department said many of the changes, both physical and in services, are likely weeks and in some cases months away. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Little sign of big change for DHSS

No commissioner at new department, other Dept. of Health and Social Services changes may take months

Elizabeth Peratrovich Hall, 320 W. Willoughby Ave., will be open as a cooling center through Wednesday for elders who need a cool place during the ongoing heatwave. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire)
Tlingit and Haida opens cooling center for elders

Keep your cool during the heatwave.

An Alaska Seaplanes Cessna 208A, seen here on the tarmac, suffered damage after failing to achieve takeoff near Elfin Cove on Sunday, June 26, 2022. (Courtesy photo / Alaska Seaplanes)
No one hurt after plane’s takeoff goes awry

The aircraft failed to achieve take off and hit the beach while leaving Elfin Cove.

A 13-year-old girl was medevaced Saturday after being struck by a vehicle near the crosswalk across Egan Drive by Gold Creek. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire)
Teen in serious condition after SUV strikes bike

Juneau Police Department is investigating.

The Norwegian Sun sat moored in Juneau on Monday after striking striking ice Saturday afternoon near Yakutat Bay on its way to Skagway. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire)
Update: Cruise ship that struck iceberg departs Juneau

It’s heading to Seattle for repairs.

Drag queen Gigi Monroe reads a book about a wig during Drag Storytime at the Mendenhall Valley Public Library. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)
One for the books: Drag Storytime returns

Balloons, books, bustin’ moves.

FILE - Tara Sweeney, a Republican seeking the sole U.S. House seat in Alaska, speaks during a forum for candidates, May 12, 2022, in Anchorage, Alaska. Sweeney's campaign manager said, Wednesday, June 22, 2022, that the campaign did not plan to sue over a finding released by Alaska elections officials stating that she cannot advance to the special election for U.S. House following the withdrawal of another candidate. (AP Photo / Mark Thiessen, File)
Alaska Supreme Court ruling keeps Sweeney off House ballot

In a brief written order, the high court said it affirmed the decision of a Superior Court judge.

President Joe Biden signs into law S. 2938, the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act gun safety bill, in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, Saturday, June 25, 2022. First lady Jill Biden looks on at right. (AP Photo / Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
President signs landmark gun measure, says ‘lives will be saved’

The House gave final approval Friday, following Senate passage Thursday.

Most Read