Building burns north of Grayling, investigation underway

Another remote property along the middle Yukon River has burned. Alaska State Troopers report that several structures at an unoccupied compound about 40 miles north of the village of Grayling, were damaged by fire Sunday.

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Grayling resident Douglas Deacon said the structures belonged to the Thurmond family, but were used by locals for emergency shelter. Deacon says he and other members of a village wildfire crew were flying to Galena Sunday and spotted the cabins, which appeared to had just recently caught fire.

“We circled around to check if there was anybody around,” Deacon said. “We’d seen a person in a green canoe; he was probably about a quarter mile down-river. He was waving at us and it looked like he was an old bearded guy, with a white beard.”

Deacon said that fits the description of a drifter area residents suspect is responsible for the fire, and another one that destroyed a cabin compound near Galena last month, as well as a string of burglaries at other remote cabins in the region. A blurry photo of the paddler was submitted to State Troopers and posted to Facebook, where a commenter noted many people float the Yukon River during the summer, and the paddler could be an innocent traveler. Other Facebook posts refer to notes left at the crime scenes, potentially linking the fires and break-ins to a particular person.

Locals name the man they think is responsible, but Trooper spokeswoman Megan Peters cautions no one has been charged, and would not comment on potential suspects or other details, noting that the cases are under investigation.