Teen charged with starting fire that destroyed popular Delta Junction lodge

Megan Edge
Only the chimney of the historic Clearwater Lodge was left standing after an early morning fire completely leveled the 55-year-old building Thursday, May 15, 2014 in Delta Junction. Photo courtesy Delta Wind

When the owners of the Clearwater Lodge in Delta Junction heard that a 16-year-old had been arrested Monday in connection with the May fire that burned their lodge to the ground, they were not surprised, they said.

Alaska State Troopers arrested and charged the local teen Monday night after he or she allegedly burglarized a home in Delta Junction and then attempted to cover up the crime by setting the residence on fire.

"About a month after it (the lodge) had burned down, we had some pretty solid information," said Clearwater Lodge owner Patsy Ewing. She claims alcohol had been stolen from the lodge before it burned. Then, at a teenage party shortly after, bottles with the same pour spouts as those stolen from the lodge were discovered.

"They are the regular plastic ones, but there are not a lot of places in Delta to get those and kids don't typically bother with them," said Ewing.

Clearwater Lodge had been a popular gathering place since its construction in 1954. In 2001, the Ewings purchased the lodge.

"We have been in survival mode," Ewing said. "It was very underinsured. We lost profit from the lost contents inside of the building, the building and the day-to-day profits."

Last weekend, with the help of friends, the Clearwater Revival Music Festival on the front lawn helped pump money back into reconstruction of the lodge. Roughly 500 people attended, making the festival "quite successful," Ewing said.

The couple hopes to have the plans for a new Clearwater Lodge finalized during the winter and a new building under construction by spring 2015.

Ewing said memories of the night of the lodge fire are still fresh.

"We live just a couple miles away, and that night a couple of friends of ours came and woke us up," she said. "I can't even describe it. It was terrible. Absolutely terrible. Just awful."

The teen suspect was taken to the Fairbanks Youth Facility and charged with multiple counts of arson, theft and "other offenses" connected to both fires, according to the a trooper dispatch.

Alaska State Troopers spokesperson Megan Peters was unable to provide additional information as of Tuesday afternoon. It is unclear if the teen will be charged as a minor or adult.