Photo by Dan Balmer/Peninsula Clarion A fire destroyed a trailer home on Rustic Avenue in Soldotna Saturday. The fire is believed to have started in a chicken coop attached to the back of the home. A heating lamp was knocked on a pile of straw and the home was fully engulfed in flames when firefighters arrived.

Photo by Dan Balmer/Peninsula Clarion A fire destroyed a trailer home on Rustic Avenue in Soldotna Saturday. The fire is believed to have started in a chicken coop attached to the back of the home. A heating lamp was knocked on a pile of straw and the home was fully engulfed in flames when firefighters arrived.

Fire scorches home that was site of drug bust

  • By DAN BALMER
  • Monday, November 17, 2014 11:10pm
  • News

A home destroyed in a fire Saturday in the Gas Well Road area was the site of a heroin bust on Halloween, but fire officials believe there is no connection between the two events.

Central Emergency Services continued their investigation into the cause of the fire to a trailer at the end of Rustic Avenue Monday. CES Health and Safety Officer Brad Nelson said all the evidence points to a heating lamp that was knocked down on a pile of straw in a chicken coop attached to the back of the trailer.

“Right now we’re not seeing any indication of arson or malicious fire,” Nelson said. “Everything is pointing toward accidental.”

When CES responded to the fire at 11 p.m. Saturday the trailer was fully engulfed in flames. All three occupants in the home escaped uninjured. No chickens, dogs, cats, goats or rabbits that lived on the property were lost in the fire, Nelson said.

Crews had the fire under control in about 45 minutes and remained on scene for two hours to make sure the fire was fully extinguished. Alaska State Troopers spokesperson Megan Peters said troopers responded to the fire but the investigation would be handled by CES unless the cause of the fire was a criminal act.

Nelson said he was corralling chickens when troopers arrived and recognized the house from the Halloween drug bust.

The back and side of the house was scorched with only a couple burned studs remaining to hold the metal roof up. Nelson brought one of the occupants of the home to the scene Monday so she could show what the condition of the house was prior to the fire. The chickens and other pets on the property would be taken care of by their owner, he said.

The structure was considered a total loss and the value of the home was assessed at $25,300. The owner of the property, Colleen Mercier, lives out of state and rented the trailer to Dustin Schirf, who is currently held at Wildwood Pretrial Facility.

Schirf, 38, was arrested on Oct. 31 after Alaska State Troopers responded to a disturbance at the residence. Troopers found meth on the bed where Schirf was sleeping when troopers arrived. Schirf admitted the meth was his and told troopers he owned firearms, but denied he had any heroin in the home, according to a trooper affidavit.

Troopers obtained a search warrant and found several Ziploc bags that contained a white crystalline substance and hard brown substance, tested and confirmed to be methamphetamines and heroin. Troopers confiscated 226 grams of meth and 178 grams of heroin and 325 methadone pills, according to the report.

Troopers also seized six firearms, including two loaded handguns. The value of all the drugs found in the home was estimated at $163,000, according to court records.

On Nov. 7, the Grand Jury indicted Schirf on 10 felony charges — three counts of misconduct involving a controlled substance in the second degree, four counts of misconduct involving a controlled substance in the fourth degree, one count of misconduct involving a controlled substance in the third degree and two counts of misconduct involving weapons, one in the second degree and another in the third degree.

Possession of heroin with the intent to distribute is a class A felony and if convicted is punishable by up to 20 years in prison and a fine up to $250,000. Schirf is facing three class A felonies.

Schirf’s bail was set for $25,000 cash appearance and $20,000 cash performance at a bail hearing last Thursday in Kenai Superior Court. Judge Charles Huguelet denied Soldotna resident Raymond Weigle as a third-party custodian, according to court records.

Weigle was convicted in 2008 on drug distribution charges. He told the court the reason he agreed to be a third party for Schirf was because he knows how hard it is for someone after they are convicted. Weigle told the court he completed his probation in 2011.

“I think I can help him and I want to help him,” Weigle said in court. “I want him to know he can still make it somehow.”

Schirf’s next court date is Jan. 9, 2015.

 

Reach Dan Balmer at daniel.balmer@peninsulaclarion.com.

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