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Fire chief: No fire, just malicious antics at downtown parking garage

31-year-old man arrested for misdemeanor offenses

Posted: August 21, 2013 - 8:05pm
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Capital City Fire and Rescue personnel respond to a reported fire at the Downtown Transportation Center's Parking Garage on Wednesday.  Michael Penn | Juneau Empire
Michael Penn | Juneau Empire
Capital City Fire and Rescue personnel respond to a reported fire at the Downtown Transportation Center's Parking Garage on Wednesday.

(Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to include information from the police department regarding the identity of the suspect and the charges against him.)

Fire crews responded to a report of a possible structure fire at the Downtown Transportation Center Parking Garage at about 4:45 p.m. Wednesday, but it turned out to be just “malicious” antics, according to the fire chief.

Capital City Fire and Rescue Chief Richard Etheridge said in an interview it turned out there was not a fire. Rather, an intoxicated male in his 30s or 40s had discharged a fire extinguisher in one of the stairwells.

After filling the staircase with a thick chemical dry powder, the man then reportedly climbed up to the third floor and threw the extinguisher outside. It struck a glass awning below and cracked it, the chief said.

“It’s going to have to be replaced,” Etheridge said.

Witnesses and bystanders at the scene pointed out to firefighters where the man was, and CCFR discovered him passed out on the third floor of the garage, steeped in a “strong odor” of alcohol, the chief said.

Firefighters stayed with the man until police arrived on scene.

Juneau police later identified the man as 31-year-old Walter R. Brown. Officer Jeremy Weske, the officer in charge at the time, said by phone that Brown was arrested for criminal mischief in the fourth degree for “tamping with a fire protection device in a building that is a public place,” as well as misconduct involving a controlled substance in the sixth degree for possession of marijuana. Both those offenses are misdemeanors.

Fire Marshal Dan Jager said in an interview that fire investigators helped collect evidence from the scene, then turned it over to police at about 6:30 p.m.

Jager added it would be “a huge help” if the bystanders involved would contact the fire department at 586-5322 to give a statement. Since firefighters were responding as if it were a fire, Jager said they didn’t have time to jot down the witnesses’ names and contact information.

• Contact reporter Emily Russo Miller at 523-2263 or at emily.miller@juneauempire.com.

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