Troopers find possible human remains at railroad car fire

Casey Grove

Alaska State Troopers on Friday discovered what might be human remains among the ashes of a burned railroad car in Trapper Creek, troopers said.

The boxcar was at the end of an airstrip on Petersville Road, off the Parks Highway north of Anchorage and Wasilla, when it burned Thursday, troopers said in a dispatch posted online Tuesday. A person who is now missing was known to live in the railroad car, according to troopers spokeswoman Megan Peters.

"(It was an) older rail car, metal construction," Peters said in an email. "The occupant had converted it and lived in it for a long time, longer than any of the local troopers can remember."

Troopers are not identifying that person, possibly the fire's victim, as they wait for a medical examiner's report.

A neighbor first reported the burning boxcar about 2:30 p.m. Thursday. Because the blaze was outside a fire service area, no firefighters responded. Two troopers drove to the scene to check on the still-burning structure and its surroundings about 40 minutes later, Peters said.

"They canvassed the area looking for the owner, talked to neighbors and family about when the owner was last seen and where the owner may be," Peters said.

The troopers picked through parts of the boxcar they could reach safely, but the fire was still burning and too hot to complete the search, Peters said.

Authorities returned to the scene of the fire about noon the next day. The structure had been reduced to a pile of ashes. Someone told troopers the longtime occupant, who sometimes lives elsewhere for weeks or months, was unaccounted for, Peters said.

Emergency medical technicians and a trooper going through the ashes Friday found what they thought was a person's remains, which they turned over to a medical examiner, troopers said. The family of the person who had been staying in the boxcar was notified of the investigation, but troopers say they are waiting for the medical examiner to positively identify the person before releasing his or her name.

Officials with the state fire marshal's office are investigating the cause of the fire.

Reach Casey Grove at or 257-4589.