Tuesday, October 20, 2020
Oct. 20, 2020

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Vancouver man accused of setting house on fire, assaulting neighbor

By , Columbian Assistant Metro Editor
Published:
3 Photos
Firefighters look over the charred remains of a house that was destroyed by fire at 1101 W. 19th St., in Vancouver's Hough neighborhood, as seen Tuesday morning. Alan McCall, 59, of Vancouver was arrested after allegedly setting his own house on fire Monday afternoon. His family said he suffers from undiagnosed mental health problems, and they've been unable to get him help.
Firefighters look over the charred remains of a house that was destroyed by fire at 1101 W. 19th St., in Vancouver's Hough neighborhood, as seen Tuesday morning. Alan McCall, 59, of Vancouver was arrested after allegedly setting his own house on fire Monday afternoon. His family said he suffers from undiagnosed mental health problems, and they've been unable to get him help. (Amanda Cowan/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

The family of a Vancouver man accused of setting his house on fire and assaulting a neighbor says he has been suffering from mental health issues for nearly two months, and despite their efforts, they’ve been unable to get him help.

Kimberly McCall, 53, said her husband — with whom she’s been for nearly 40 years — began displaying abnormal behavior when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. However, his behavior, which she described as paranoid and delusional, has escalated over the last two months.

The family has contacted hospitals, law enforcement and mental health resources, but no one has been able to help them. They’ve been told there’s nothing that can be done until he hurts himself or someone else, a tearful Kimberly McCall said Tuesday.

She said her husband is a good man, but something broke.

On Monday evening, the 59-year-old Vancouver man was taken into custody on suspicion of first-degree arson and second-degree assault after a chaotic hourslong incident at his home in the Hough neighborhood.

Alan “Ty” McCall was scheduled to make a first appearance on the allegations Tuesday morning in Clark County Superior Court, but the hearing was set over to Wednesday after the judge learned the jail had taken him to a hospital for unspecified medical issues.

Judge David Gregerson appointed McCall an attorney in the interim, who said he plans to request a competency evaluation.

According to a Clark County Jail pre-book sheet, police noted that Alan McCall suffered a bite on his left arm by a police K-9. The document also states that he appears to suffer from mental health problems: “unknown diagnosis, displays schizo-effective, paranoid and delusional behavior.”

Vancouver police were called at 4:20 p.m. Monday to assist with a fire at 1101 W. 19th St. While en route, the officer learned that a man known as Ty had made threats to burn down a neighbor’s house, and smoke and flames were coming from a house, according to an affidavit of probable cause.

“I was familiar with Alan (aka Ty) from prior calls to this residence in recent days,” the officer wrote in the affidavit.

The officer said he could see thick, black smoke from several blocks away, and upon arrival saw flames shooting about 12 feet above the roof line on the southwest corner of the residence and flames coming from a detached garage. Several neighbors were grabbing hoses to help with the fire, according to court records.

A Samaritan, identified as Matthew Bachmeier, was trying to move McCall away from the flames and smoke. But McCall picked up a large rock, estimated by the officer to weigh 20 to 30 pounds, and threw it at Bachmeier’s head. Bachmeier moved out of the way in time to avoid injury, the affidavit says.

The officer yelled, “Police!” and ran toward the scene. McCall retreated into the flames in the backyard between the garage and house. The officer ordered bystanders to move away and called for backup, according to court documents.

Two more officers arrived on the scene, at which time McCall ran toward them, swinging a 10-foot metal pole. He stopped short of the officers, who took cover behind a pickup, and McCall struck the top of the vehicle. He then ran back into the smoke and flames while screaming obscenities, the affidavit states.

The Vancouver Fire Department responded, and several neighboring residences were evacuated.

Fire department spokesman Bryan Fredrickson said the situation was too dangerous for firefighters to attack the blaze directly, so two engines created a safety corridor — the vehicles were used as shields while crews protected two homes next to the house on fire, Fredrickson said.

Police officers provided protection as firefighters sprayed the home on fire from a distance.

Firefighters pulled a water line to douse the flames before police requested they back away, because McCall was believed to be armed and inside the burning house.

They had the fire contained about an hour after responding and stopped spraying water to clear police officers’ line of sight, because the fire was producing high heat and heavy amounts of smoke, making it difficult to locate McCall or search the property.

With the use of a police K-9, McCall was found hiding under some unburned building materials on the southwest corner of the lot. A lighter was taken from him, the affidavit says.

A neighbor said she saw McCall before the fire started with a small, red gas can at his house. She told him it was a hot day, and he reportedly replied, “It’s about to get a lot hotter.” He then walked to the back of his house and doused it, she said, according to court records. The fire started quickly, and the neighbor yelled, “Your house is on fire!” to which McCall reportedly replied, “No (expletive)!” the affidavit reads.

Kimberly McCall told police her husband has been having escalating mental health problems, including paranoia, intermittently since March. She said family took him to a hospital on Sept. 5, and he was referred to mental health treatment after no underlying cause was determined, according to court records.

On Sept. 21, Alan McCall reportedly told his wife, “The holocaust is coming, and everything is going to burn!” — an incident that prompted police to respond. Kimberly McCall moved out of the home for her own safety and removed all lighters, car keys and their firearm to protect her husband, the affidavit reads.

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