A Kasilof man is facing charges of arson, burglary and criminal mischief after allegedly setting fire to his residence and then trespassing on another property, according to affidavits filed at the Kenai Courthouse on Oct. 4 and 5.
Robert Heath Thompson, 45, of Kasilof was arrested following investigation into a house fire that occurred near Mile 105 of the Sterling Highway, between Soldotna and Kasilof.
The fire was reported at around noon on Saturday, Oct. 3, with firefighters and troopers responding to extinguish it. The building that was damaged by the fire is a two-story log home and is one of three residences on the property, all of which are rentals, according to the affidavit.
Troopers contacted the property owner, who told them that Thompson was living in the house damaged by the fire.
The witnesses who called dispatch about the fire also reported seeing a man in the parking area of the residence watching the fire, which they identified as Thompson through a photograph, according to court documents.
Troopers said they were unable to locate Thompson when they arrived at the scene of the fire, and due to the “suspicious circumstances of Thompson leaving, and unknown circumstances of the fire,” the State Fire Marshal’s Office was called to conduct an investigation, according to the affidavit.
The affidavit states that Thompson eventually arrived at the scene, and he was questioned by troopers about the fire and his whereabouts.
Thompson reportedly told troopers that he had gotten a ride to a convenience store in town earlier that day, and when he came back he discovered that his house was on fire.
Thompson had burn scars on his face and arms from an incident unrelated to the Oct. 3 fire, according to the affidavit. He told troopers that, because of his PTSD associated with fires, he walked into the woods and watched the fire from there, only coming down after the fire trucks had left.
Thompson told troopers that he had used the CARTS public transportation system to go into town, but CARTS does not run on the weekends, and Thompson could not explain this discrepancy when asked about it, according to the affidavit.
The property owner shared security camera footage of the residence with troopers during the investigation, which allegedly showed Thompson appearing from the location of the fire after it had started and making no attempt to call for help or put it out.
The fire marshal reportedly found a pile of Thompson’s property — clothes, bedding and other items — underneath some burned wood at the site of the fire damage while investigating. Next to the wood pile was a small can of propane with the torch nozzle removed, “Which appeared to be the likely cause of the fire,” according to the Oct. 4 affidavit.
Megan Peters, communications liaison with the Department of Public Safety, clarified via email Thursday that the investigation into the cause of the fire is still ongoing, but “a person can be charged with arson during a pending or on-going case, subject to the probable cause on hand.”
Thompson had left the scene by the time the fire marshal arrived, but Soldotna dispatch received a call at around 9:30 p.m. that same night of a man matching Thompson’s description who was trespassing at another residence on the Sterling Highway.
Troopers were unable to locate Thompson that night, and the next morning at about 9 a.m., another trespassing incident was reported in Kasilof, with the suspect again matching Thompson’s description. Troopers located Thompson walking down the Sterling Highway and, after interviewing him again, placed him under arrest.
Thompson is facing charges of second-degree arson, a Class B felony, third-degree criminal mischief, a Class C felony, first-degree burglary, a Class B felony and first-degree criminal trespassing, a Class A misdemeanor.
Reach reporter Brian Mazurek at firstname.lastname@example.org.