Anchorage police seek arsonist after park blazes

Casey Grove
Bill Roth

Anchorage police are looking for a man suspected of intentionally lighting several wildfires in Russian Jack Springs Park on Monday.

Multiple people called 911 about 9:15 p.m. to report seeing two columns of smoke coming from wooded parkland east of the Cartee Fields softball complex, off of Pine Street, fire dispatchers said. In all, the firefighters who responded eventually had to extinguish five fires, each 50 to 100 yards apart, Battalion Chief Yram Lopez said.

"There was no reason to have a fire in those areas, and while we were extinguishing those initial fires, other ones were popping up," Lopez said.

As the fires were spreading and crowning in spruce trees, firefighters set up an observation post in the softball complex using a large aerial ladder from a hook and ladder truck.

At one point, the firefighters spotted a suspicious man with blond hair in a ponytail wearing an orange shirt and camouflage shorts or pants, Lopez said.

"He looked out of place. He said something about looking for his brother with an active fire going on, and then he took off running," Lopez said. "We need to find that guy."

Lopez said police are now investigating and are on the lookout for the man. In a summer marked by dry, hot stretches of weather, it was good to have had rain in recent days, Lopez said.

"A week or two ago, in midday, we'd have a totally different story," he said.

Tips to help catch the culprit can be called in to police at 786-8900.

Reach Casey Grove at or 257-4589.