Some of the fun and frolic went out of Spirit Week early this morning when vandals prematurely ignited a football team bonfire.
Unknown mischief makers poured gasoline over the 50-foot pile of pallets readied at Dimond Park for a bonfire scheduled to be lit at 7 p.m. tonight.
Officers of the Juneau Police Department were first on the scene, and notified Capital City Fire & Rescue about 1:12 a.m. By the time firefighters arrived, the fire, burning on dirt between ball fields, was fully involved and the fuel was about three-quarters consumed, firefighters said. The dirt confined the blaze to its original 30-foot circle.
No one was in the area when police responded. "It got a lit a day early, but it's not something we are going to investigate," JPD Officer Chris Burke said.
"It's too bad," said Steve White, president of the Juneau Youth Football League, "because we had a big event planned for tonight. All the teams were going to be out there, and we were going to be kicking off our Spirit Weekend.
Parents of varsity players, the "First-and-10 Club," had constructed the pyre, under the direction of Darryl Miller of Commercial Signs & Printing, who had persuaded contractors to donate scrap wood.
Miller was incensed. "I'm disappointed. The spirit has gone out of my week," he said. "If there are parents out there who didn't know where their kids were between 11 p.m. and 1 a.m., and they are missing a couple of gallons of gasoline from the garage, they should consider that they might be harboring an arsonist."
He criticized firefighters for not arriving earlier at the blaze which was "lighting up the sky in the Valley." He also criticized police for closing the case. "This is one of several unsolved arsons in Juneau," Miller said.
Miller said he had worked long hours on the project, and personally tossed at least 200 pallets onto the pile himself.
There will not be a bonfire tonight, said Reilly Richey, head coach of the high school football team.
"We are so concentrated on trying to beat West (West Anchorage High School, at 7 p.m. Friday night at Adair-Kennedy Memorial Park) that a bonfire would not be a priority for the coaching staff," Richey said.