FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: January 10, 2013
On Tuesday January 1, 2013 at about 5:50 p.m., the Fairbanks Fire Department responded to a reported structure fire at 315 Barnette Street (Post Office) for a report of a fire in the lobby. When fire fighters arrived three minutes later the fire had already been put out. Fire fighters discovered the fire actually involved a person that appeared to have been sleeping in the PO Box hallway and had caught fire. As a result of the fire, the individual sustained serious burns. He was transported to Fairbanks Memorial Hospital and later medevaced to Harborview Medical Center Burn Unit in Seattle.
At the time of the fire on New Year’s Day interviews were conducted with the persons who discovered the fire and the workers across the street who helped extinguish the fire, however, little information was available after as to the cause.
Fire officials delayed releasing the name of the victim until a reasonable attempt was made to locate and inform family members of the victim’s injuries. On Saturday 1/5/13 we were notified that the individual had passed away. The victim was identified as John Druck Wallis and the family was notified of his passing.
In the days after the fire, follow up investigation and interviews revealed there had been two people sleeping in the mail box area of the Post Office earlier New Years Day. A cab driver reported seeing two men sleeping in the Post Office in the area of the fire 20 minutes prior to the fire as he drove by. One person was lying down and one sitting up. The description was very general: native males in dark clothing.
The cause of the fire is still under investigation. Anyone with any information is asked to call the Fairbanks Fire Department at 450-6615 or the Fairbanks Police at 450-6500. Fire and Police investigators seek information in identifying who may have been in the Post Office on New Year’s Day or anyone who can provide information regarding the incident. Investigators are waiting for results of the autopsy conducted by the King County Medical Examiner’s Office to ascertain the exact cause of death.
Fire and Police investigators are looking at this incident as suspicious.