The police and fire departments are investigating a suspicious early morning fire at Adair-Kennedy Memorial Park, next to Floyd Dryden Middle School.
Capital City Fire and Rescue Chief Richard Etheridge said a newspaper delivery driver reported seeing the flames at about 3:40 a.m. Tuesday.
The fire destroyed a 10- to 12-foot-long aluminum trailer towed by a John Deere tractor, which was also destroyed. There was also a “pile of stuff” on the ground that was melted, Etheridge said.
“It melted into a big lump,” Etheridge said.
There was no damage to the field itself or the bleachers, Etheridge said. Fire investigators are still determining what was damaged and how much damage was caused.
The fire was probably about 10 feet wide and 15 feet long, with flames jumping up about 25 to 30 feet in the air when fire crews arrived, Etheridge said. Fire crews knocked down the fire in about five minutes using fire fighting foam. The fire was away from the turf-stripped field, in the dirt area next to the bleachers.
After the flames were contained, police launched a criminal investigation, said Juneau Police Department Lt. David Campbell.
Campbell said JPD was pursuing leads, but he declined to elaborate.
Etheridge said the field was a common place for vandalism and arson, and there was fire in the same area last fall that caused about $100,000 of damage when it scorched the turf field.
There have also been several car fires, some trash can fires and the concession stand has also been set ablaze, Etheridge said.
He guessed it was a popular place for arson since there are trails nearby that make for a quick escape route and it is a familiar location for some juveniles.
Juneau Park and Recreation Department Director Brent Fischer said he noticed one of the surveillance cameras overlooking the area was damaged. He said he wasn’t sure if it was done before or during this instance, or if it was even related to the arson. But it’s about $400 to $500 in damage, he said.
Fischer said there were many other cameras in the area and they were turned over so police can review the footage.
The tractor and trailer damaged in the fire belonged to a synthetic turf company called Shaw Sportexe, which is in the process of re-doing the Adair-Kennedy field, said Catherine Wilkins, project manager for the City and Borough of Juneau.
Wilkins said she worried the arson would delay the $1 million field project, and possibly interfere with the upcoming practice and game schedule for the Juneau-Douglas High School Crimson Bears football team.
“I just really feel for the Crimson Bears’ team,” Wilkins said. “This is their home field.”
She said the project was to be complete by July 15, but now that has come to a “dead stop” because the tractor and trailer were essential tools in the project, she said.
“It’s just distressing to see,” Wilkins added. “I mean, this is for football. Who would want to hurt football? I don’t get it.”
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