Residents of Two Rivers and Pleasant Valley filled the Pleasant Valley Baptist Church on July 10 to hear an update on a series of arson attacks in the two communities east of Fairbanks. Police are investigating fires that have burned three residential and two community association properties since early May.
State Trooper Captain Eric Spitzer did not mince words in addressing the situation.
“Let’s face it, there’s forces of darkness at work here,” he said.
Spitzer emphasized that the arson investigation is a high priority.
“Whoever’s responsible for this, they should not be sleeping soundly at night,” he said.
Spitzer urged local people to keep an eye out for suspicious activity and to form an email group to coordinate and share information.
“I need some community leaders out here to step up and put together a community watch,” Spitzer said. “I’m not talking about a vigilante thing.”
It was earlier disclosed that there has been written communication from someone claiming responsibility for the arson attacks, but no details are being released. Spitzer said he would alert the community if there’s a specific threat, but that other case details are being held close by troopers, the state fire marshal’s office and the FBI.
“In order to preserve the integrity of the investigation, there’s certain things law enforcement wants to keep only law enforcement knowing,” he said.
Pleasant Valley Community Association buildings are among those targeted. Association chairman Wayne Shea said there’s a possibility that some security video can be salvaged from a heat damaged hard drive.
“It’s not being sent to a forensic crime laboratory in Virginia,” he said. “Now, if they can’t get it, probably nobody can, but there is a chance.”
Shea, who’s also pastor of the Pleasant Valley Baptist Church, expressed appreciation for local people staying calm given the scary situation.
“We’re not gonna operate on fear in this community,” he said. “We’re tougher than that.”
One of the arson attacks displaced six people in three households on a single property earlier this month. Don and Virginia McKee lost their home, plus two rental units, and large shop buildings. Standing in front of pile of the blackened debris, the McKees described a concussive blast that started the early morning fire.
“The explosion of the gas being lit that they had spread on the far side of my shop,” he said.
“From the time he woke up, it was 2:07. At 2:15 the front of the house just blew out,” Virginia McKee said.
Virginia McKee says the fire followed another arson attack that burned a relative’s home nearby less than a day earlier. She says they have no clue about who’s responsible.
“We have gone over that so many times with the FBI and the troopers, and — okay, there’s a lot of people don’t like me much on Facebook cause I am very conservative, and I’m not afraid to say so,” she said.
The McKees say many people — some they know, and some they don’t — are helping them and the others who’ve lost property in the arson attacks.
“The generosity of our neighbors is overwhelming,” she said.
A $2,000 reward is being offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for the arson attacks.