Crime & Courts

Man charged with arson in fire that damaged downtown Anchorage house

Police say a downtown Anchorage fire Sunday afternoon that seriously damaged a house was intentionally set by a man described in charging documents as using tiki torches to start the blaze.

The Anchorage Police Department said in an update Monday that officers located 35-year-old Gary Stephen Morris about a block from the fire after a witness described a shirtless man matching his description walking away from the burning building.

The fire at 810 W. Eighth Ave. was reported around 3:30 p.m. and sent a thick plume of smoke into the sky. The building sits between Skinny Raven Sports and a branch of Credit Union One. Anchorage firefighters and police responded. Police said the house was unoccupied due to ongoing renovations.

Morris was carrying a 6-foot metal pipe when he was contacted by officers, police said.

He was medically evaluated and told a first responder that he started the fire, according to a summary of police reports written by Assistant District Attorney Alice Curci and filed with charges, including arson.

Morris was brought to the police department, where he told detectives that he broke a window of the house and lived there for several days last week before the owners found him and told him to leave, according to the summary.

The owners did not report Morris’ first break-in to police, and he entered the house again on Sunday by pulling off a wooden board over a window he previously broke to gain access, the summary said.


“Morris said he was angry and frustrated due to people stealing his property and constantly accusing or hurting him,” Curci wrote.

He told the detectives that he used a tiki torch he found in the shed to set fire to the front hall, but “thought better of it” and put it out using a fire extinguisher, according to the summary. He then left the house and drank alcohol with a woman, it said.

When Morris returned, he told investigators, he again used the stove to light a tiki torch and thought he had started the fire in the shed, although he could not remember and did not know how it spread to the house, the summary said. Tiki canisters were found in the home, it said.

Morris was the only one inside the home during the fires and no one was injured, authorities said. He was charged with second-degree arson, resisting arrest, criminal mischief and violating conditions of release. He was scheduled to appear in court Tuesday and remained in custody at the Anchorage Correctional Complex on Monday.

The home was badly damaged by the fire, especially in back, where a large section was charred. Yellow tape surrounded the building Monday morning and the windows and doors had been boarded up.

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Tess Williams

Tess Williams is a reporter focusing on breaking news and public safety. Before joining the ADN in 2019, she was a reporter for the Grand Forks Herald in North Dakota. Contact her at