By Nicholas Grube
Triplicate staff writer
Yurok Tribal Police are searching for the person responsible for setting fire to the tribe's offices in Weitchpec early Tuesday morning.
Custodians discovered the blaze before it had a chance to engulf the building, but smoke still caused thousands of dollars worth of damage to the tribal structure.
"It's obviously arson and it's obvious they were trying to start the building on fire," Yurok Chief of Police Dave Parris said.
He said the fire started between 4 a.m. and 5:30 a.m. on Tuesday underneath the deck on the back side of the building, and that security cameras captured the suspect on tape before setting the fire. But as of yet, the motive for the attempted arson is unknown.
"Arson is one of the most difficult crimes to solve because, often times, the person is not on the scene and much of the evidence is destroyed," Parris said.
Yurok Council Member Richard Myers, who was on the scene as a volunteer firefighter with the Wautec Fire District, said this is the first time he can recall anything like this happening.
"For us, this is probably one of the first (arson attempts) we've had on the tribal structures," Myers said, saying that minor vandalism and theft are not uncommon.
But he said this incident will "definitely" increase security measures around the facilities, including better security cameras and 24-hour employees.
"This is a terrible thing to happen within our small community," Myers said. "It (the building) brings a lot of social services support...it's a really important structure to us. It's really devastating to our community that somebody would do this to us."
Anyone with any information regarding the fire at the Weitchpec Tribal Offices is encouraged to contact the Yurok Tribal Police at 707-482-8375.