ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - 9/1 Update:
Troopers have confirmed that they are actively investigating this case as a "suspicious fire." Captain Barry Wilson with the Alaska State Troopers said that they have an officer in the area conducting the investigation now, and that the response was delayed by a combination of factors. One was poor weather preventing a plane from reaching the area, and another was scarce resources as other officers were responding to a homicide in Aniak at the time.
Residents in the area say they are on edge, and worried that the suspect may strike again.
"They're saying there's an arsonist, and there are some fish camps being burned down, but they're downplaying how dangerous this guy could be. We feel that other communities deserve to get a little better warning than what we got," said Chevie Roach, the mayor of Shagluk.
Troopers say that while they are currently not positive that the individual identified by the community is in fact a suspect, Captain Wilson did say, "We have some ideas of who it might be, we'd like to talk to the person in the canoe to see if that's the person involved, or if they were a witness to what was going on."
"We are actively working the investigation we certainly appreciate the concern in the communities because its in the middle of the Yukon River, and that's a substantially isolated area," Wilson said.
The threatening notes have been taken to forensics specialists for testing and analysis of fingerprints. Wilson said it has been made a priority so that results will be returned sooner rather than later.
Fire burned through several structures on Sunday and residents say threatening notes were left behind in the area taped to logs.
Alaska State Troopers wrote in an online dispatch that a fire at a rural cabin compound was "under investigation" this week after they received a report of the fire at a rural cabin compound on Blackburn Island, north of Grayling.
Residents in the area said that several threatening notes were found in the area. One sent to Channel 2 reads: "Joy Huntington is an evil Shaman who tortures to death anyone who gets in her way - white people [will] never understand this psychopathic psychic phenomenon - You [Expletive] Raciest(sp), Parasitic Athabascans Need to fix This!!!"
The owners of the Grayling cabins, Josephine Malemute, said her family had been there for five generations. "That was our happy place and now it's gone."
A similar cabin fire was reported by authorities in July that happened at a Galena family's fish camp 100 miles away along the Yukon River. In this case, similar notes were left behind, also referencing a "Joy Huntington." The owner of those cabins, a Joyce Huntington, told Channel 2 that she was "devastated" by their destruction.
As for who is believed to have started these fires, that remains unknown. Troopers said that they could not comment further on the status of the investigation, or if they had identified any suspects in the case.
However, many members of the community say they believe they know who may have started both fires, based on the information in the vaguely threatening notes. Joy Huntington, a Fairbanks City Council member, said she believes she knows who is responsible, too.
"I'm aware of what's happening, and the notes," Huntington said. "It's devastating what's happening with those people along the river. I only hope that no one gets hurt and that authorities find him soon."
As for who "he" is, authorities have not identified any suspects that they are looking for involved with burning down the cabins. In an email, Holly Flynn, from Galena, said that, "People are warning each other in nearby villages [...] to watch out for this man, which I believe more people would know if it was in the news. State Troopers have not caught him yet."
Previously, members of the same community council, including Joy Huntington, were addressed at meetings last year by a man making threats similar to those left at the burned down camp sites, referencing "demons" and "shamans."
That man, Jerald Harrison was charged with assault and property damage earlier this year, after charging documents say he entered a hotel and began writing on a wall. At that time, he also claimed that two Fairbanks community council members were going to pay for his hotel room and that they were "demons who were sent to kill him."