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Posts from the 'Local News' category

Charging documents detail state’s version of Sockeye Fire origin

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The two Anchorage residents charged with causing the Sockeye Fire were burning lawn debris, according to charging documents filed with the Third District Court in Palmer. The affidavit, filed by investigator Thomas Greiling, says that there was evidence of three piles burning at the Ringler Circle lot where the fire began.

According to the affidavit, multiple spent fireworks were discovered on the scene, but Greiling says that there is no conclusive evidence that they were part of the cause of the 7,200-plus acre blaze.

The affidavit claims that Greg Imig admitted to burning four piles of debris on the property, and that Imig was not certain that the burn piles were fully extinguished before leaving them unattended.

The charging documents say that Amy Dewitt also admitted to burning debris piles. Dewitt told investigators that she was unsure if one of the piles was out, and she placed boards on it, believing that they would begin to burn if the fire was still hot. Greiling believes that particular pile is the one that ignited nearby woodlands and started the Sockeye Fire.

Imig, Dewitt, and Dewitt’s juvenile son left the lot in a motorhome due to the fire. Dewitt says she called 9-1-1 from the property before leaving. Greiling says Dewitt did not provide the location or cause of the fire to authorities. The affidavit says there is evidence of a rapid exit from the property, and that a chainsaw, gas cans, and jack pads for a motorhome.

Greg Imig and Amy Dewitt are charged with eight misdemeanors related to the ignition of the Sockeye Fire, including burning without a permit, failing to clear the burn area, allowing the fire to spread, leaving a fire unattended, criminally negligent burning, and three counts of reckless endangerment. Four of the charges are Class A misdemeanors, and carry maximum penalties of $10,000 and one year in jail. The other four charges carry penalties up to $500 and six months in jail. Arraignment is scheduled for July 28th.

A call to Greg Imig was not returned before deadline.

State files charges against two Anchorage residents in connection to Sockeye Fire

Monday, July 13, 2015

On Monday, the State of Alaska filed charges against two Anchorage residents for starting the debris burn that turned into the 7,200 acre Sockeye Fire. The fire destroyed fifty-five homes and damaged forty-four other structures, according to the state.

In a press release issued Monday afternoon, Division of Forestry spokesman Tim Mowry says that charges were filed against 59-year-old Greg Imig and 42-year-old Amy Dewitt. Charges include three counts of reckless endangerment, negligent burning, failure to obtain a burn permit, not clearing the burn area, and, ultimately, allowing the fire to spread unattended.

The Division of Forestry and Alaska Fire Marshal’s office say that Imig and Dewitt were burning debris on the evening of June 13th near their cabin at mile 77 of the Parks Highway. The state claims that the fires were left unattended, and one continued to smolder, igniting the nearby forest the next day.

The charges facing Imig and Dewitt are all misdemeanors, four of which carry maximum penalties of $10,000 and a year in jail, each. Forestry spokesman Tim Mowry says that individuals responsible for starting a wildfire can be held accountable for two-times the cost of fighting the fire. The state’s latest estimate on the cost of suppressing the Sockeye Fire is eight million dollars.

Archaeology Open House Features Finds by Upper Valley Youth

Monday, July 13, 2015

 

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by: Katie Writer – KTNA, Talkeetna

This past Saturday, the Walter Harper Ranger Station and University of Alaska’s Museum of the North hosted a Culture Camp Open House. Local students have been conducting an archaeological dig at a site in Downtown Talkeetna, and invited the public to see what they found.  KTNA’s Katie Writer attended the open house and has this report:

Denali National Park Archeologist Phoebe Gilbert led a group of Youth Conservation Corps members in a dig next to the Ranger Station.

“One of the first things the students found was a metal dinner plate with an enamel cover [and] ’T.S. Germany’ on the back, so that was pretty cool.  That was within the first five minutes of the dig.” (more…)

Talkeetna Council and public discuss commercial dock application for Fish Lake

Friday, July 10, 2015

The most contentious topic at the July meeting of the Talkeetna Community Council board of directors was an application for a floatplane dock on Fish Lake. While docks do already exist, this case involves a number of factors that make it more complicated. KTNA’s Phillip Manning has more:

 

Aviation is an integral part of Talkeetna’s history, and numerous air services currently operate out of both the Talkeetna State Airport and area lakes. The most recent application for a new floatplane dock of Fish Lake has caused a stir, however.

Before we go too deep into the details of the current situation, here is some background. Above Alaska Aviation, the company trying to build the new dock had a lease from the Mat-Su Borough for a floatplane dock on Christiansen Lake. Drew Haag, owner of Above Alaska, explains that the Christiansen permit became unavailable.

“Obviously, through a lot of other research, that permit never should have been issued, but that was ours…”

Essentially, because of the way that the Christiansen Lake special land use district rules are written, when the old lease on the dock lapsed, it should have no longer been available for commercial use. Above Alaska Aviation then tried to find a way to access Fish Lake, which already has a number of commercial floatplanes based on it. With no lease or ownership on private land, and with the borough designating a substantial portion of the shoreline as parkland, options are limited.   Haag says that attempts to find other legal means of access were difficult.

“This is basically what it’s left—I’ve tried to work with the [Talkeetna] Community Council, and this is where it’s left us. We’re fighting to stay in business.”

Now, Drew Haag has applied for a permit to access the shore via a section line easement. The borough granted that permit. He also needs a permit from the state Department of Natural Resources to build the dock on a navigable waterway. (more…)

Borough attempting to address Talkeetna sewer’s fecal coliform problem

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Last year, the Talkeetna sewage treatment system was cited for exceeding allowable levels of fecal coliform in treated water. Now, the Mat-Su Borough is taking steps that it hopes will improve the lagoon’s performance.

Public Works Director Terry Dolan believes that the primary causes for the fecal coliform levels in water flowing out of the lagoons are duckweed and grease on the surface of the water. Dolan says that the “rotten egg” smell that some East Talkeetna residents reported last year indicates a lack of oxygen in the system, which could be caused when the gas is unable to penetrate the surface. He adds that personnel were on-site Thursday to conduct another round of cleaning on the surface of the lagoons.

In addition, the borough has used equipment to remove sludge build-up at the bottom of the lagoons. Efforts to re-vegetate the wetlands where the treated water flows out have also been made, and will likely resume next spring. Terry Dolan says water is slowly being released into the wetlands, and that the system will be allowed to settle for about a week before discharge from the lagoon begins.

Troopers: Denali Highway bodies identified, double homicide suspected

Thursday, July 9, 2015

The Alaska State Troopers have identified the bodies of two people found near the Denali Highway on Sunday after what they believe to be a double homicide.

Troopers say that sixty-one-year-old Richard A. Casler and forty-two-year-old Lynn M. Butler, both of Wasilla, died of gunshot wounds inside a trailer near mile seventy-nine of the highway from Paxson to Cantwell.

The investigation into Casler and Butler’s disappearance began last Friday night. According to the Alaska State Troopers, both were reported missing from the area where they were camping. Responding troopers found what they believed to be evidence of an altercation involving gunfire in the area of the trailer Casler and Butler were staying in. A ground and air search was conducted, and, on Sunday, noises were heard coming from what the dispatch report describes as a “dilapidated” trailer in the area around 4:00 p.m. on Sunday.

Attempts were made to communicate with anyone who might be inside, but no one responded. Troopers called in two special emergency reaction teams, then entered trailer and discovered Casler and Butler’s remains.

The Alaska State Troopers are still investigating the incident, and are asking anyone who spent the Fourth of July weekend in the area to call (907) 451-5100.

A tour of the new Talkeetna Public Library

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Corridor

After pooling together over five million dollars in grants and donations from individuals, organizations, and government entities, the new Talkeetna Public Library is open to the public. KTNA’s Phillip Manning got a tour of the new facility and has this report:

 

 

When I arrived at the new Talkeetna Public Library and Community Center, it had just opened for the day. Still, a few patrons were already browsing the aisles or making use of the publicly available computers.

 

For those familiar with the old Talkeetna library building, the new facility offers a number of immediately apparent improvements. It’s larger, more open, and lets in a lot of natural light. Librarian Ann Yadon is clearly proud of the new library.

 

“It’s just a gorgeous building, and we’re really enjoying being here.” (more…)

Humpbacks Bubble Feeding Near Seward

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

This video was taken by Brad Rich, who, until very recently, hosted “What You Want” on KTNA on Sunday afternoons.  You will be missed, Brad.  We’re glad the whales gave you a nice send-off!

Fire, Flood, Sewer and Water Services Discussed at Talkeetna Council Meeting

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

At Monday’s Talkeetna Community Council, Inc. board meeting, multiple service areas were discussed, including fire, flood service, and sewer and water.

Eric Denkewalter, acting chief for the Talkeetna Fire Department, says that he would like to see the fire service area board re-established.  The three-member board has been inactive, and Denkewalter says re-establishing it would ease the administrative burden, such as creating budgets, on the department.  Members of the board must reside within the fire service area, and Denkewalter says he would like the Talkeetna and Sunshine Community Councils to help in seeking out interested individuals.

The possible expansion of the Talkeetna Flood Service Area was also discussed.  Borough Assembly Member Vern Halter, whose district includes Talkeetna, says that a resolution to place the expansion on the October borough election ballot was introduced last month, and will be voted on by the assembly at the first August meeting.  If the assembly approves, the measure would then go to the voters who live inside the current flood service area as well as the proposed expansion, which includes East Talkeetna and the River Subdivision.  An advisory vote on beginning the expansion process, held by the Talkeetna Community Council last October, passed comfortably.

Also at Monday’s meeting, council chair Whitney Wolff read correspondence from Mat-Su Borough Public Works Director Terry Dolan regarding the Talkeetna Sewer and Water system.  According to Dolan’s email, work is underway to correct issues identified in last year’s study of the system.  In addition, Dolan says sludge buildup was discovered in the lagoon, and work is underway to remove it.  The borough is also planning to re-vegetate the area with plants designed to help treat sewage before it is released from the lagoon.  Talkeetna’s sewer and water system has been cited in the past for high levels of fecal coliform, and Dolan says that there are plans to prevent the issue from re-occurring.