A 49-year-old Ketchikan man is believed dead in a Wednesday-night house fire after reportedly shooting a gun into the air and then probably running back into his burning home. Investigators reported early Thursday evening that they found a body in the ashes of the destroyed house.
Details of the incident still are unclear as Alaska State Troopers and the Alaska State Fire Marshal’s office investigate. Troopers Spokeswoman Megan Peters said the initial report came in about 6 p.m. Wednesday of a fire and shooting on Blackberry Lane.
“A homeowner who was identified as Ralph Smith, age 49, had come out of his residence, told a family member that the residence was on fire, and then he drove down the road and parked his truck perpendicularly in the road,” she said. “Smith had a firearm with him, and he did fire off a couple of shots.”
Peters said that Smith didn’t seem to be shooting at anyone in particular, and nobody was
shot. Witnesses were not able to tell responders what Smith did after that.
“A search of the area was conducted for Smith and he was not located,” she said. “At this point, it’s believed that he went back inside the burning home and he perished.”
The North Tongass Fire Department responded to the fire and was able to extinguish it. However, the home is a complete loss.
Peters said it’s not yet known what caused the fire, or why Smith shot the gun into the air.
The Fire Marshal, local fire responders and Alaska State Troopers were still on the scene Thursday afternoon. Here’s Lt. Rodney Dial of the Alaska State Troopers:.”We have search teams in the woods, just doing a sweep of the neighborhoods and surrounding area and we also have an excavator down there sifting through the debris of the home so we can determine cause of the fire, so we can determine cause of the fire, origin and if anybody is inside.”
Troopers later reported that human remains had been found in the ashes of the home, and those remains are believed to be those of Ralph Smith.
Troopers report that the remains will be sent to the State Medical Examiner’s Office in Anchorage for positive identification and an autopsy.