Crime & Courts

Anchorage man charged with arson in apartment complex fire that destroyed five units

Arson apartment fire

A 23-year-old Anchorage man faces arson and other charges linked to a fire at a 12-unit apartment complex Sunday that destroyed five units and prompted resident evacuations.

Paul Bates set fire to his own unit after his neighbors refused to give him a cigarette, according to charging documents filed Monday.

The fire then spread to other apartments within the building, according to charges filed by Assistant District Attorney Luba Bartnitskaia. At least five units are considered a total loss.

Neighbors told investigators they refused to give Bates a cigarette just before the fire started around noon Sunday, the charges said. One briefly left the apartment complex on the 6000 block of East 12th Street, and when he returned about 10 minutes later, black smoke could be seen coming from Bates’ unit, they said.

Bates was walking out of the building carrying two duffel bags and a backpack, according to the charges.

Arson apartment fire

The neighbor opened the door to Bates’ unit and saw the living room on fire, the charges said. The man helped his disabled girlfriend out of their apartment and alerted the neighbors, Bartnitskaia wrote.

First responders were called to the area just after noon. No one was injured, Anchorage Fire Department Assistant Chief Alex Boyd said.

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Police located Bates walking nearby and carrying packed bags, the charges said. Officers handcuffed him and patted him down, police said. Two lighters were found in his pocket and the charges said he admitted to police that he had started the fire.

Residents were unable to stay in the building Sunday night and Boyd said it wasn’t clear when they would be able to return. It also wasn’t immediately clear exactly how many people were displaced. Some of the units are livable, but the building will need to have utilities turned on again, Boyd said.

Building damage and personal property loss estimates were estimated in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, according to the charges.

Vehicles parked in front of the building were also damaged, police said. There is varying damage throughout the building from smoke, forced entry or water, Boyd said.

Arson apartment fire

Bates is facing charges of first-degree arson, criminal mischief and reckless endangerment.

An online court database shows Bates pleaded guilty to a charge of criminally negligent burning and harassment last month. Prior convictions include robbery, assault, trespass and criminal mischief.

Tess Williams

Tess Williams is a reporter for the Anchorage Daily News, focusing on breaking news. Before joining the ADN in 2019, she was a reporter for the Grand Forks Herald in North Dakota and previously helped cover the Nebraska Legislature for The Associated Press. Contact her at twilliams@adn.com.

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