Anchorage Police Department and Anchorage Fire Department responded to a residential fire on the 800-block of W 8th Avenue on Sunday, where a home was nearly fully engulfed in flames. Police spoke to a witness who gave the physical description of a man seen walking away from the burning building. An officer located that male nearby on H Street.
The male, later identified as 35-year-old Gary S. Morris, was holding a six-foot metal pipe, which he refused to put down even after multiple commands from the officer.
Once backup units arrived, the first officer was able to take the pipe away from Morris, who dropped to the ground and was handcuffed.
Morris was transported to the Anchorage Police Department for questioning by detectives. Afterwards he was remanded at the Anchorage Jail on the charges of Arson II, Resisting, Criminal Mischief III, and Violate Conditions of Release. He had been arrested earlier this month for criminal mischief and was released on bail.
The motive behind Morris starting the fire is still under investigation as is the means by which he started it. Morris did not live at the home. Initial indications are that the residence, which is used in part as a bed-and-breakfast, was unoccupied and undergoing renovations.
The structure is one of the historic first houses built in Ship Creek-Anchorage, now known as the Amundsen House. It was built by Ernest Amundsen, who came to Alaska through Skagway in 1905 and built a cabin, then a house on the Anchorage lot, finishing it in the middle of the Great Depression.
Amundsen was a prospector and later postmaster of Anchorage and police chief.