Alaska State Troopers arrested a 17-year-old Thursday in connection with a string of arson fires in Two Rivers.
Jamison Gallion, 17, is charged with two counts of arson I, five counts of arson II, four counts of burglary II, as well as seven counts of criminal mischief, according to court documents. The arson I charges will automatically waive Gallion to adult status, and he will be tried as an adult, a trooper dispatch stated. Additional charges are expected as the investigation continues.
Since mid-May, 11 structures have burned in Two Rivers with eight of them being confirmed arson. The fires have set the community on edge as residents sought to protect their homes from the unknown arsonist who seemed to strike at random.
According to the trooper dispatch, Gallion was identified as a person of interest after surveillance footage showed him filling a fuel container at Chena Hot Springs Gas around 11 p.m. Aug. 22, approximately an hour before Two Rivers Lodge was set ablaze.
“After search warrants were obtained for Gallion’s house, electronics and vehicle, additional digital and physical evidence was uncovered by investigators,” according to the trooper report.
The investigation revealed that Gallion was present at the commercial fire near Mile 10 of Chena Hot Springs Road on Aug. 18 and called 911 around 2 a.m. to report the fire, according to charging documents. He reportedly provided the name “Matthew” to 911 dispatch.
The following day, a witness reported seeing Gallion at the scene of a residential fire near Mile 11 of Chena Hot Springs Road. He reportedly told the witness that he arrived on scene approximately 10 minutes after the fire began on his way to work, according to charging documents. The witness reported the incident to troopers.
In the early morning hours of Aug. 23, a witness called 911 to report a fire at Two Rivers Lodge. The witness reported that he was approached by a teenage male at the scene. The teenager allegedly told the witness his name was “Matthew” and provided the last name of Gallion, according to charging documents.
Troopers conducted an investigatory stop several miles west of Two Rivers Lodge. Gallion was identified as the driver, according to charging documents. He allegedly told troopers he was on his way to work when he saw the fire.
Later that day, troopers questioned Gallion at his home. He reportedly told troopers that he had left his house and gone to a Holiday gas station around 9:30 p.m. the previous night and then drove to check on his grandmother, who lived in the Pleasant Valley area, around 11:30 p.m., according to charging documents. Gallion told investigators the trip took two hours because he was looking for suspicious activity and or fires in the area, according to charging documents.
His grandmother, however, told troopers that she had been awake that night and that Gallion had not visited her home that evening. When confronted with the inconsistencies, Gallion reportedly told troopers that he was in the area because he received an emergency alert about the fire, according to charging documents. There was no emergency notification issued regarding the Two Rivers Lodge fire.
Gallion’s cell phone search history revealed queries which included, “what will happen if you are arrested for arson as a minor,” “what will happen if you are arrested for arson,” and “can police find me by my mobile number.” Troopers also discovered a receipt which reflected the purchase of a 2-gallon gasoline container from Walmart on Aug. 18.
According to a signed affidavit from Deputy State Fire Marshal Kyle Carrington, Gallion admitted to setting seven fires in the community since May. He also reportedly admitted to mailing letters to the Pleasant Valley Community Association and said that numerous statements in the letters were designed to taunt both the community and law enforcement.
While the arrest brings some closure to victims, many questions remain unanswered. “We were really happy to hear it although we really don’t have any information yet,” said Ginger McKee, whose home burned in the early hours of July 3.
“It was really kind of strange because I didn’t sleep any better last night than I have for the past seven and a half weeks only because I had all these questions running around in my head,” McKee explained. “Why the hell did you burn my house down? I don’t know if I will ever get an answer to that because he didn’t know us. Any of us.”
In recent months, Gallion frequently posted about the fires on the Two Rivers-Pleasant Valley community Facebook page. On Aug. 19, Gallion posted at 1:10 a.m. that he witnessed a house fire at Mile 12 of Chena Hot Springs Road. “There seems to be a car in the driveway so god hope nobody is in there,” he wrote.
He also shared a post on July 14 on Facebook from the Fairbanks Fire Department urging residents to have evacuation plans in case of a home fire.
Gallion attended Lathrop High School and was a member of the men’s soccer team, according to online records.
He is currently being held at Fairbanks Youth Facility on a $1,000,000 cash performance bond.