Anchorage firefighters responded Thursday night to the Royal Suite Apartments, left uninhabitable by an arson fire in February, after someone broke into one of the remaining, intact units and set fire to a couch.
Anchorage Fire Department fire marshal Cleo Hill said a call about the fire in a first-floor unit of the building came in at 11:40 p.m. Thursday. Firefighters launched a full response, typically about a dozen units, but a single unit was all that was needed to handle the incident, Hill said.
That's not to say firefighters weren't concerned about the stability of the apartment, she said.
On Feb. 15, arson destroyed one of two buildings in the Royal Suite Apartments complex near the intersection of Minnesota Drive and Spenard Road and killed three residents and injured or displaced dozens more.
Some units on the east end of the affected building were not burned. A chain-link fence was put up around its entirety, but the building's damaged portion has remained exposed to the elements.
There were no issues with Thursday night's response, Hill said.
"Apparently some unknown person or persons had broken into one of the unburned units and set a couch on fire," Hill said. Firefighters quickly extinguished the furniture fire, which did not spread, she said.
Anchorage police closed the northbound lanes on Minnesota Drive for about 20 minutes during the response.
According to Hill, the owners of Royal Suites will provide more security for the building moving forward. One of those owners, Gino Yoo, could not be reached for comment.
No one has been living in the building, Hill said, though it appears there have been trespassers. From the condition of the apartment, it looks like there were people living in it, she said.
"They weren't using the toilet facilities; there were feces and garbage and drug paraphernalia all around," Hill said, adding that the plumbing still works there. "It just makes no sense."
Anchorage Police Department spokeswoman Renee Oistad said in an email that one of the former tenants called the police about their apartment being burglarized. The victim was unsure exactly what was missing or when the burglary happened, Oistad said.
"In the police report the officer stated there were 'several other apartments on the first floor' that looked like they had also been rummaged through," Oistad said.
The officer took photos, she said, and police are waiting for victims to come forward.