Man sets fire to apartment building after neighbor won’t give him cigarette, feds say

A man set his Alaska apartment on fire, which spread throughout the building, after a neighbor refused to give him a cigarette, according to federal prosecutors.

Residents, including a tenant with a child on her back and woman in a wheelchair, raced to escape the burning structure in Anchorage on Oct. 30, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Alaska said in a Sept. 25 news release.

Apartment building fire in Anchorage, Alaska on Oct. 30, according to federal prosecutors
Apartment building fire in Anchorage, Alaska on Oct. 30, according to federal prosecutors

Paul Bates, 24, of Anchorage, was charged in a federal indictment with arson in connection with “maliciously” destroying the building, according to the attorney’s office and court filings.

Information regarding Bates’ legal representation wasn’t immediately available Sept. 25.

After Bates’ neighbor wouldn’t share a cigarette with him, Bates set three fires inside his apartment unit and fled the building, prosecutors said.

The fire spread within minutes, according to prosecutors who said Bates was arrested the day of the blaze.

Officers spotted Bates walking along the road with packed bags after he set the fires, KTUU reported.

“I did it, take me to jail,” Bates told police, according to the outlet.


The burned apartment building had 12 units, and several residents were without homes days after the fire, the Anchorage Daily News reported. One family the newspaper spoke with relocated to a hotel.

“It’s devastating,” Priscilla Dipola told the newspaper at the time. “It’s not just my home that was destroyed, it’s everybody who was in there, all my neighbors, everybody’s displaced.”

At a hearing in state court on Nov. 2, Bates appeared on charges that included arson and was described as “argumentative,” according to the Anchorage Daily News.

A judge said several people could have died as a result of the fire, which wholly destroyed at least five apartment units, the newspaper reported.

Since Bates is detained at the Anchorage Correctional Center, a federal judge granted the government’s motion seeking to have Bates appear in federal court on Sept. 22, court records show.

A date for his initial court appearance wasn’t listed as of Sept. 25.

If Bates is convicted, he will face a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison, prosecutors said.

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