Rural Alaska

Man dies after starting fire in Southwest Alaska jail cell, troopers say

A 36-year-old man died early Tuesday after he set fire to a mattress inside a Southwest Alaska jail cell, Alaska State Troopers said.

Police in Kasigluk were called to a home because Kyle White was causing a disturbance and was extremely intoxicated and belligerent, troopers spokesman Tim DeSpain said in an email Wednesday. The officers took White to the Kasigluk tribal jail with the intent of holding him there for 12 hours while he sobered up, DeSpain said.

Around 3 a.m., roughly 90 minutes after he’d been taken into custody, White set a mattress in the cell on fire using a lighter that he had with him, DeSpain said. Tribal police later reported to troopers that White had not been properly searched before he was put in the cell, he said.

Tribal police couldn’t immediately be reached for comment Wednesday.

A jail guard and a tribal police officer were on duty at the facility when the fire began, according to DeSpain.

“The jail guard was able to get the cell door unlocked but unable to get White out due to the size of the fire, heat and smoke,” he said. “The jail guard and other community members extinguished the fire with water buckets.”

The fire was mostly contained to the holding cell, troopers said. White died in the fire, they said. No one else was in custody at the time, according to DeSpain.

Troopers and a deputy fire marshal responded to Kasigluk to investigate, they said. The village is located on the Johnson River roughly 25 miles northwest of Bethel.

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