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Fairbanks post office burn victim dies

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Posted: Sunday, January 6, 2013 7:00 am | Updated: 7:49 pm, Wed Jul 9, 2014.

FAIRBANKS — The man who was seriously burned when he caught fire while sleeping in the hallway of the downtown Fairbanks post office on New Year’s Day died Saturday.

John Druck Wallis, 59, passed away about noon at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, Fairbanks fire chief Ernie Misewicz said.

Wallis apparently had been sleeping in a hallway of the post office at the time he caught fire. He was found burning in the lobby of the Barnette Street post office about 5:50 p.m. Tuesday by a person checking their mail. The person who found him, along with some workers from across the street, worked to put the fire out before firefighters arrived three minutes later.

The initial news release from the fire department Wednesday said Wallis caught fire for “unknown reasons.”

Wallis suffered serious burns to the upper portion of his body, the fire department stated in a news release issued Saturday announcing he died. He initially was treated at Fairbanks Memorial Hospital before being medivaced to Seattle.

Police said there are signs alcohol might have been a factor in the fire but few other details have been released. Both the police and fire departments are investigating the cause of the fire.

“We are investigating it as a suspicious death,” Sgt. Gary Yamamoto said.

Misewicz said he’s still trying to piece together what happened in the moments leading up to Wallis catching fire.

“I’m still trying to track some people down to find out what was going on prior to the fire,” the fire chief said.

Anyone with any information is asked to call the Fairbanks Fire Department at 450-6615 or the Fairbanks Police at 450-6500.

Contact staff writer Tim Mowry at 459-7587.

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