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AK Beat: Fire on recreational vessel at Valdez fuel dock injures five

Craig MedredAlaska Dispatch

Five injured in Valdez boat fire: A fire aboard the 28-foot recreational vessel Falcon at the Crowley fuel dock in the Valdez Small Boat Harbor left five people injured on Monday. The Valdez Fire Department, Harbormaster’s Office and Coast Guard responded to the fire around 11:30 a.m., and found “the Falcon engulfed in flames and a small fire on the Crowley fuel dock,” a Coast Guard press release states. Crowley employees secured fuel to the pier’s pumps, and firefighters extinguished the blaze after 45 minutes. The two adults and three children on board were taken to Providence Medical Center for treatment, the Coast Guard reported.

Theory on what became of Mount Marathon runner who vanished: One of the confounding Alaska mysteries of our time is what happened to Michael LeMaitre, the runner who went missing never to be found during the hugely popular Mount Marathon Race in Seward last year. Alaska adventurer Tim Kelley, who has done more backcountry travel in wild Alaska than most people can imagine, has gone looking for LeMaitre more than once. He went back to try again recently, and in a long essay written after the latest search offers his thoughts on how the most likely scenario is that LeMaitre, a Mount Marathon rookie, followed the obvious and well-traveled trail past the unmarked turn at Race Point, kept going along the ridge toward the actual summit of the mountain and somewhere below the summit -- with the trail finally deteriorating -- turned right and headed up the ridge to look for a descending trail now already well behind him. Kelley's thoughts on all of it can be found here

Live, streaming sockeye salmon stream video: The the U.S. Forest Service has placed an underwater video camera in Steep Creek, near Mendenhall Glacier by Juneau, and uploaded the results live on YouTube for the whole world to see in real time. Right now, the red salmon are very active, and viewers don't have to wait long to see one pass close by. Click to watch.

Luxury cruise ship fails health inspection: Docked in Skagway, Alaska, on July 17, the Silversea Shadow - a luxury cruise ship carrying nearly 400 passengers – failed a surprise health inspection by the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Details about why the ship – which charges $4,000 for a seven-day cruise of Alaska’s Inside Passage - failed the inspection have not been released, but Silversea general manager Mike Bonner said his company Silversea Cruises is “deeply disappointed by this specific and only unsatisfactory score.” The Shadow’s score of 84 was three points shy of a passing mark in the CDC -administered test. Most of the problems were corrected in port and the Silversea was allowed to continue its voyage. 

Superb year for McKinley climbers: What a difference good weather makes. Mother Nature smiled on Alaska's Mount McKinley this year, and 787 climbers made the top. The overall success rate for the 1,151 who gave the mountain a go was 68 percent, second best of all time. And the only death was related to exertion rather than accident; a 59-year-old German man died of a heart attack. Contrast this with what happened in 1992, when storms ravaged the mountain and 11 died. But the good weather was not without its own, unique problems. The National Park Service stopped ranger patrols around Windy Corner near 13,300-feet and shuttled rangers by aircraft from lower down on the mountain to the 14,200 foot camp. The reason? Sunshine baking the normally frozen cliffs above the corner was warming things up enough to set off a large rockfalls. Luckily, no climbers were injured, but there were close calls.

Alaska's DNR chief Sullivan tapped for Marine duty in Afghanistan: The U.S. Marine Corps has called up the soldierly Dan Sullivan -- the Marine reservist and state Department of Natural Resources commissioner -- for a stint in Afghanistan after tapping him for active duty. Sullivan left the state Sunday. Lt. Col. Sullivan -- not to be confused with the Anchorage mayor of the same name -- should be gone about six weeks, said an assistant in his office. Natural Resources Deputy Commissioner Joe Balash will serve as acting commissioner while Sullivan is gone. Sullivan has been a full-time and part-time Marine since 1993, including putting several years into the "Marine Corps Reserve's premier cold weather reconnaissance unit," according to a state biography. The site says Sullivan is currently commanding officer for the Delta Company Anti-Terrorist Battalion in the 4th Marine Division. Sullivan was recalled to active duty twice before, the site says. In early 2009, he helped "draft a regional strategy report for the Commander of U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) General David Petraeus." And between 2004 and 2006, he was a strategic advisor to CENTCOM Commander General John Abizaid. 

Helping Galena flooding victims: As victims of the flooding that devastated residents of Galena earlier this summer work to rebuild their community, the Alaska Department of Homeland Security reminds those who want to help to make sure that their donations are put to good use. Those wishing to donate are asked to call the donation line at 855-374-4790 to ensure a need for donated goods, though Homeland Security notes that among the most-requested items are things like non-perishable food items, construction and building tools, building materials, kitchen goods, cleaning supplies and disposable paper products. Cash donations are the fastest way to assist beleaguered Galena residents, and the ready.alaska.gov website has a list of approved relief organizations.

Words matter: A recent grand jury indictment in an arson was dismissed by a Juneau judge after prosecutors incorrectly stated that the grand jury "should" return an indictment with sufficient evidence, instead of saying they "may" do so, according to the Juneau Empire. The attorney for 24-year-old defendant Ryan M. Martin argued successfully that the state constitution allows a grand jury to not issue an indictment even if the evidence is sufficient to do so. Prosecutors plan to seek another indictment, though there's a lot more to this story and the finer points of the law -- read it all at the Juneau Empire.