More homes burn in community east of Fairbanks plagued by arsons

The Two Rivers-Pleasant Community has seen at least 5 arsons over the last few months and so far, the troopers have no leads.
Published: Jul. 13, 2021 at 7:25 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - Just east of Fairbanks, Alaska are the communities of Two Rivers and Pleasant Valley. Over the last few months, life has been anything but pleasant for residents of the area as a serial arsonist has tormented them. The Alaska State Troopers have identified five fires as arsons and are investigating others. Just this weekend there were two fires in the community.

On Monday, resident Toni Galster got a call from a neighbor on her cell phone, “He said, ‘I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but your house is on fire.’”

Toni and her husband Mike were in Fairbanks getting ready to go fishing on the Elliot Highway when the call came in. By the time they got to their house, they said there were around 20 law enforcement officers there.

“It was like, ‘okay I guess we are the next arson victim here.’ Luckily we have a motorhome to live in since our house is on the ground now,” Toni said.

Their home was for sale at the time of the fire but now there is nothing left.

Toni said that she had thought the fires were tied to the community center and that they wouldn’t be targeted. “We figured, ‘well we are safe, we’re not affiliated with them.’ I guess we weren’t safe.”

Just days before Alaska State Troopers said the arsonist attempted to burn down another home. The family was at the house and managed to extinguish the fire before it destroyed the residence. Troopers have ruled that fire was an arson. Currently there are troopers, Alaska Deputy Fire Marshals and FBI agents investigating the fires.

Troopers are still seeking information about the fires and the community has established a fund to offer a reward for information. Bob Sugden is a pastor in the area and the treasurer of the Pleasant Valley Community Association. He said they came up with the idea a few weeks ago but wanted to wait for law enforcement to approve. That approval came during a community meeting last Saturday with the Troopers.

Sugden told us, “The Captain that was speaking asked for any questions. So I raised my hand and said, ‘what about a reward, is that something you guys would encourage, or would you discourage it?’ And he said, ‘Well as a matter of fact I have got a $100 in my pocket and I will give it right now. Let’s get this thing going.’”

As of news time, $7,500 has come in to the fund. Sugden said they have gotten donations from all types of individuals including Alaska legislative representatives and even people from other states.

Sugden set up an account to make donating easier. “We just today set up an account at Mount McKinley Bank in Fairbanks and it’s in the name of the Pleasant Valley Community Association, and they just simply say ‘I want to donate to the reward account.’”

Sugden said that people can also email, to get a link for a PayPal they set up. He said all of the money goes into the account for the reward.

Sugden also addressed what happens to the money if a reward is not needed, “If the money is not used, we want to divide it up among the families that have been harmed by the fires.”

Troopers are encouraging anyone with information to call (907) 451-5100. They also ask that community members stay alert and look for suspicious activity.

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