AD Main Menu

Funny River wildfire jumps the Kenai River

Nathaniel Herz
Clouds of smoke rise above small airplanes parked at the Soldotna Airport near Funny River Road on Thursday evening, May 22, 2014.
Bill Roth
Sterling resident Brian McCorison drove up Funny River Road on Tuesday, May 27, 2014 to check out the area where the Funny River fire was thought to have started. The evacuation order has been lifted and residents along the road have been allowed to return.
Loren Holmes
The Hooper Bay Type 2 wildland firefighters prepare to hike into the Funny River Horse Trail wildfire on Thursday, May 22, 2014.
Bill Roth
Boats and equipment are ferried away from a cabin and away from the approaching fire on the south side of the Kenai River at 1:54 p.m. on Saturday, May 24, 2014, near Kenai Keys.
Brian Looney
Central Emergency Services firefighter Sarah Smith informs residents Mike Foust and Danna Moisii of the current Funny River fire conditions from a lookout point at the end of Alaska View Lane in the Funny River neighborhood of Soldotna on Sunday, May 25, 2014. In the distance, a hot spot flares up from the still very active fire.
Loren Holmes
From left, Levi Hohl, Steve Schumacher, John Hohl and Dan Desmarais watch fire activity from DesmaraisÕ deck on Browns Lake on Saturday, May 24, 2014.
Loren Holmes
Photo courtesy of Fred and Cecilia Colvin A resident took a picture of the wall of flame erupting about 10:35 p.m. Friday night (May 23, 2014) off Heavy Down Drive near mile 105 on the east side of the Sterling Highway before people there were evacuated.
Fred and Cecilia Colvin
Smokey warns motorist driving south on the Sterling Highway near Soldotna that the fire danger was "Extreme" on Thursday evening, May 22, 2014.
Bill Roth
Officials lifted the evacuation order for the Funny River neighborhood on Tuesday, May 27, 2014, and residents began returning shortly after 9:00am.
Loren Holmes
The Hooper Bay Type 2 wildland firefighter crew hikes into the Funny River Horse Trail wildfire on Thursday, May 22, 2014.
Bill Roth
A last load out from a cabin on the south side of the Kenai River is unloaded on the gravel beach at Kenai Keys at 1:58 p.m. on Saturday, May 24, 2014.
Brian Looney
The Funny River fire burns near the northern edge of the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge near Browns Lake on Sunday, May 25, 2014.
Loren Holmes
An ember burns in the northern portion of the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge on Saturday, May 24, 2014. The area, along a fire line south of Browns Lake, had burned three hours before.
Loren Holmes
Mary Joe McElroy, Katie Blossom, and Marina Bosick get an update on the Funny River wildfire by cell phone at their Bear Creek cabin in the remote subdivision on the north shore of Tustumena Lake on Friday, May 23, 2014.
Bill Roth
A bulldozer clears a line off Funny River Road on Thursday evening, May 22, 2014.
Bill Roth
Firefighters mop up hot spots along Funny River Road on Tuesday, May 27, 2014. The evacuation order has been lifted and residents along the road have been allowed to return to their homes.
Loren Holmes
Firefighter Matt Tegerdine of Central Emergency Services monitors a hot spot to prevent the wildfire from crossing Funny River Road on Thursday, May 22, 2014.
Bill Roth
Smoke obscures sight of a cabin on the south side of the Kenai River at 1:59 p.m. on Saturday, May 24, 2014, across from Kenai Keys.
Brian Looney
The Funny River fire burns near the northern edge of the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge near Browns Lake on Sunday, May 25, 2014.
Loren Holmes
Firefighters douse hot spots along a fire line near Browns Lake on Saturday, May 24, 2014.
Loren Holmes
Streaks of wildfire debris float on the surface of Tustumena Lake on Friday, May 23, 2014.
Bill Roth
The Chena Hot Shots, a Type 1 wildland firefighting crew from Fairbanks, hikes along Funny River Road while battling the wildfire on Thursday evening, May 22, 2014.
Bill Roth
Firefighters mop up hot spots along Funny River Road on Tuesday, May 27, 2014. The evacuation order has been lifted and residents along the road have been allowed to return to their homes.
Loren Holmes
Trees burn to the edge of the water on the south side of the Kenai River at 2:01 p.m. on Saturday, May 24, 2014, across from Kenai Keys.
Brian Looney
Central Emergency Services firefighters monitor hot spots that had crossed the fire line near Alaska View Lane in the Funny River neighborhood of Soldotna on Sunday, May 25, 2014. The area was evacuated later that day.
Loren Holmes
Sam Werner, left, and Levi Hohl put out hot spots along a fire line near HohlÕs brotherÕs home near Browns Lake in the Funny River neighborhood of Soldotna on Saturday, May 24, 2014. The Funny River fire had burned up to the line three hours before.
Loren Holmes
Jeff Stark of the Alaska Smokejumpers lays fire hose at a cabin in the on the north shore of Tustumena Lake on Friday, May 23, 2014.
Bill Roth
An air tanker drops water on the wildfire along Funny River Road on Thursday, May 22, 2014.
Bill Roth
Firefighters mop up hot spots along Funny River Road on Tuesday, May 27, 2014. The evacuation order has been lifted and residents along the road have been allowed to return to their homes.
Loren Holmes
A river boat stands offshore in front of the fire line on the south side of the Kenai River at 2:03 p.m. on Saturday, May 24, 2014, across from Kenai Keys.
Brian Looney
An Alaska National Guard Blackhawk helicopter dumps water on the Funny River fire on Sunday, May 25, 2014.
Loren Holmes
A bulldozer clears a fire line on Saturday, May 24, 2014, protecting the Funny River neighborhood from a wildfire that has topped 100 thousand acres in size.
Loren Holmes
Jeff Stark of the Alaska Smokejumpers lays fire hose at a cabin on the north shore of Tustumena Lake on Friday, May 23, 2014.
Bill Roth
Firefighter Spencer McLean of Central Emergency Services places a water and foam mixture on the on the brush and trees along Funny River Road on Thursday, May 22, 2014.
Bill Roth
ANNE RAUP / Anchorage Daily News Boaters, bikers, four-wheeler enthusiasts and others flocked to Eklutna Lake in Chugach State Park on Memorial Day, May 26, 2014, despite heavy smoke from the wildfires burning in Southcentral Alaska.
Anne Raup
Local resident Sue Looney watches for embers jumping the river on the Kenai Keys side of the Kenai River at 2:13 p.m. on Saturday, May 24, 2014.
Brian Looney
Members of the Houston, Alaska fire department stage their personnel and equipment in the Funny River neighborhood of Soldotna on Sunday, May 25, 2014. The area was later evacuated.
Loren Holmes
A pyrocumulonimbus cloud forms above the northern flank of the Funny River fire on Saturday, May 24, 2014.
Loren Holmes
Jeff Stark of the Alaska Smokejumpers lays fire hose at a cabin on the north shore of Tustumena Lake on Friday, May 23, 2014.
Bill Roth
A firefighter from Central Emergency Service monitors the wildfire along Funny River Road on Thursday, May 22, 2014.
Bill Roth
Wildfire smoke obscures the Chugach Mountains as Sen. Lisa Murkowski speaks at the Anchorage Veterans Memorial Rededication Ceremony held Monday morning, May 26, 2014, on the Delaney Park Strip.
Erik Hill
Fire crews arrive and help search through dense smoke to find embers in the Kenai Keys Subdivision at 2:42 p.m. on Saturday, May 24, 2014.
Brian Looney
From left, Arianna Moonin, 11, Tristan Moonin, 8, Kammy Highlands-Vatshelle, 9, Elias Moonin, 12, and Tatiana Moonin, 9 play on a trampoline in the Funny River neighborhood while a forest fire burns behind them on Sunday, May 25, 2014. Their neighborhood was evacuated an hour later.
Loren Holmes
Dan Desmarais, left, helps his neighbor John Hohl water his home and yard in advance of the nearby Funny River fire on Saturday afternoon, May 24, 2014. HohlÕs home is near Browns Lake in the Funny River neighborhood of Soldotna.
Loren Holmes
Land owners check on their Bear Creek cabin on the north shore of Tustumena Lake on Friday, May 23, 2014.
Bill Roth
Firefighters hydrate while monitoring the wildfire along Funny River Road on Thursday, May 22, 2014.
Bill Roth
Gov. Sean Parnell surveys the Funny River fire on Sunday, May 25, 2014, on the Kenai Peninsula.
Photo courtesy Office of the Governor
Helicopters dump water on flames on the south side of the Kenai River to hold the line at 3:08 p.m. on Saturday, May 24, 2014, across from Kenai Keys.
Brian Looney
A helicopter drops water on a hot spot near the Funny River neighborhood of Soldotna on Sunday, May 25, 2014.
Loren Holmes
An airplane prepares to drop retardant on a fire burning on the edge of Browns Lake in the Funny River neighborhood of Soldotna on Saturday afternoon, May 24, 2014.
Loren Holmes
Wildland firefighters and supplies are positioned at the Bear Creek subdivision on the north shore of Tustumena Lake on Friday, May 23, 2014.
Bill Roth
A firefighter works the wildfire along Funny River Road on Thursday, May 22, 2014.
Bill Roth
Gov. Sean Parnell surveys the Funny River fire on Sunday, May 25, 2014, on the Kenai Peninsula.
Photo courtesy Office of the Gov
Helicopters scoop water from the Kenai River to hold the line on the south side of the river at 3:09 p.m. on Saturday, May 24, 2014.
Brian Looney
An Alaska National Guard Blackhawk helicopter gathers water from Aurora Lake to dump on the Funny River fire, burning nearby on Sunday, May 25, 2014.
Loren Holmes
A fire burns on the edge of Lake Road in the Funny River neighborhood of Soldotna on Saturday afternoon, May 24, 2014.
Loren Holmes
Streams of smoke billow from the Funny River wildfire along the north shore of Tustumena Lake on Friday, May 23, 2014.
Bill Roth
A goat named Snickers that lives at Mile 9 of Funny River Road was relocated to Soldotna during the wildfire on Thursday, May 22, 2014.
Bill Roth
Gov. Sean Parnell surveys the Funny River fire on Sunday, May 25, 2014, on the Kenai Peninsula.
Photo courtesy Office of the Governor
Planes dump water on the south side of the Kenai River at 3:34 p.m. Saturday, May 24, 2014, across from Kenai Keys.
Brian Looney
Driver Mike Morris monitors a ridge beyond a group of firefighters working on a fire line near Aurora Lake in the Funny River neighborhood of Soldotna on Sunday, May 25, 2014. Morris is looking for any sign of the fire encroaching on the firefighters.
Loren Holmes
Chris Lucas watches a fire burn near his home off of Lake Road in the Funny River neighborhood of Soldotna on Saturday afternoon, May 24, 2014.
Loren Holmes
A helicopter shuttles firefighters to the remote Bear Creek subdivision on north shore of Tustumena Lake on Friday, May 23, 2014.
Bill Roth
Sierra Chapman, 11, feeds leaves from a tree to some of the 10 goats and 4 Alpaca's that live at Mile 9 of Funny River Road that were relocated to Soldotna on Thursday, May 22, 2014.
Bill Roth
Gov. Sean Parnell surveys the Funny River fire on Sunday, May 25, 2014, on the Kenai Peninsula.
Photo courtesy Office of the Governor
Central Emergency Services firefighter Sarah Smith informs Funny River residents Pete Chaussee, left, Angela Rhodes, and Dan Smith of the current Funny River fire conditions from a lookout point at the end of Alaska View Lane in the Funny River neighborhood of Soldotna on Sunday, May 25, 2014.
Loren Holmes
An Alaska National Guard Blackhawk helicopter prepares to gather water from Aurora Lake to dump on the Funny River fire, burning nearby on Sunday, May 25, 2014. Behind the helicopter is a pyrocumulonimbus cloud, created by fire activity on the north east edge of the fire.
Loren Holmes
John Hohl, left, rushes to clear spruce from his home near Browns Lake in the Funny River neighborhood of Soldotna on Saturday afternoon, May 24, 2014. With him is his brother Levi Hohl, in red, and friend Sam Werner.
Loren Holmes
Photo by Karol Raszkiewicz Smoke from the Funny River Horse Trail fire rises above the peninsula Thursday evening, May 22, 2014. Raszkiewicz was on a flight from Dillingham to Anchorage when she made the aerial image of the smoke.
Karol Raszkiewicz
A helicopter dropped water on the wildfire along Funny River Road on Thursday, May 22, 2014.
Bill Roth
Gov. Sean Parnell surveys the Funny River fire on Sunday, May 25, 2014, on the Kenai Peninsula.
Photo courtesy Office of the Governor
John Hohl walks the fire line near his home on Sunday morning, May 25, 2014. He and his brother were putting out hot spots.
Loren Holmes
Children play on a trampoline north of Browns Lake Road on Rabbit Run on Sunday afternoon, May 25, 2014.
Loren Holmes
A firefighter warns Sam Werner, left, and Levi Hohl of a fire that jumped a fire line a half mile from where they were working to try to secure Levi HohlÕs brotherÕs property near Browns Lake in the Funny River neighborhood of Soldotna on Saturday afternoon, May 24, 2014. They were evacuated shortly afterwards.
Loren Holmes
Heavy smoke from the Funny River wildfire is visible in the distance from Erik Hansen Scout Park in Kenai on Friday, May 23, 2014.
Bill Roth
A helicopter that dropped water on the wildfire along Funny River Road on Thursday, May 22, 2014, gets another bucket of water.
Bill Roth
Gov. Sean Parnell surveys the Funny River fire on Sunday, May 25, 2014, on the Kenai Peninsula.
Photo courtesy Office of the Governor
Sam Werner walks a fire line near Browns Lake, looking for hot spots, on Saturday, May 24, 2014. The Funny River fire had burned up to the line three hours before.
Loren Holmes
An airplane drops retardant on a fire line near Browns Lake in the Funny River neighborhood of Soldotna on Saturday, May 24, 2014.
Loren Holmes
John Hohl, right, is exhausted and frustrated after being evacuated from his home near Browns Lake in the Funny River neighborhood of Soldotna on Saturday afternoon, May 24, 2014. From a neighborÕs home, he watched the fire burn less than a half mile from his home.
Loren Holmes
Incident commander Rob Allen of the Alaska Incident Management Team addresses questions during a community meeting at Tustumena Elementary School near Kasilof that was attended by over two hundred people on Thursday evening, May 22, 2014.
Bill Roth
A helicopter dropped water on the wildfire along Funny River Road on Thursday, May 22, 2014.
Bill Roth
Gov. Sean Parnell surveys the Funny River fire on Sunday, May 25, 2014, on the Kenai Peninsula.
Photo courtesy Office of the Governor
A hot spot flares up along the edge of the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge near Browns Lake on Sunday morning, May 25, 2014. The Funny River fire was temporarily stopped here overnight, but changing conditions prompted officials to issue an evacuation order for neighborhoods directly across the line.
Loren Holmes
Dan Desmarais, left, and Steve Schumacher watch the Funny River fire from DesmaraisÕ deck on Browns Lake on Saturday, May 24, 2014.
Loren Holmes
Sam Werner rests in Dan DesmaraisÕ yard after working furiously to clear trees from his friend John HohlÕs nearby property near Browns Lake in the Funny River neighborhood of Soldotna on Saturday afternoon, May 24, 2014. Werner and others were told to evacuate as the fire jumped a fire line less than a half mile from HohlÕs home.
Loren Holmes
Rem West hits a tee shot on the 7th hole at the Bird Homestead Golf Course off Funny River Road on Thursday evening, May 22, 2014, with a column of smoke from the wildfire visible in the distance.
Bill Roth
The Hooper Bay crew, Type 2 wildland firefighters, hike towards the Funny River Horse Trail wildfire on Thursday, May 22, 2014.
Bill Roth
Gov. Sean Parnell surveys the Funny River fire on Sunday, May 25, 2014, on the Kenai Peninsula.
Photo courtesy Office of the Governor
Central Emergency Services firefighters put out hot spots along the edge of the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge near Browns Lake on Sunday morning, May 25, 2014. The Funny River fire was temporarily stopped here overnight, but changing conditions prompted officials to issue an evacuation order for neighborhoods directly across the line.
Loren Holmes
Helicopters drop water on the Funny River fire near Browns Lake on Saturday, May 24, 2014.
Loren Holmes
Skilak lake is shrouded in smoke from the Funny River fire on Saturday afternoon, May 24, 2014.
Loren Holmes
Wildfire officials held a community meeting at Tustumena Elementary School near Kasilof that was attended by over two hundred people on Thursday evening, May 22, 2014.
Bill Roth
Sterling resident Brian McCorison drove up Funny River Road on Tuesday, May 27, 2014 to check out the area where the Funny River fire was thought to have started. The evacuation order has been lifted and residents along the road have been allowed to return.
Loren Holmes
The Hooper Bay Type 2 wildland firefighters prepare to hike into the Funny River Horse Trail wildfire on Thursday, May 22, 2014.
Bill Roth
Fire reaches the south side of the Kenai River, just across from the Kenai Keys Subdivision, at 1:50 p.m. Saturday, May 24, 2014.
Brian Looney
Central Emergency Services firefighters walk the fire line along the edge of the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge near Browns Lake on Sunday morning, May 25, 2014.
Loren Holmes
A fire flares up south of Browns Lake in the Funny River neighborhood of Soldotna on Saturday, May 24, 2014.
Loren Holmes
A sign warns campers of burn bans in effect at a campsite along Skilak Lake Saturday afternoon, May 24, 2014.
Loren Holmes
Wildfire officials held a community meeting at Tustumena Elementary School near Kasilof that was attended by over two hundred people on Thursday evening, May 22, 2014.
Bill Roth

SOLDOTNA - Firefighters anxiously awaited the arrival of rain on the Kenai Peninsula as they worked Monday to contain the edge of a huge wildfire that for the first time crossed to the north side of the Kenai River -- a 300-foot-wide natural fire buffer that failed to keep flames in check.

Winds gusting to 25 miles per hour were pushing the massive Funny River Fire, estimated on Monday evening to be just over 176,000 acres, or about 275 square miles, through an uninhabited area north of the Kenai River outside of the community of Sterling, while firefighters patrolled the western boundary of that blaze and tried to create a barrier for an estimated 100 homes and cabins in a nearby waterfront community in case the wind shifts .

Residents of Kenai Keys, which sits on the north shore of the Kenai River near Sterling, said embers started several small fires there on Sunday that were quickly put out, and that a dilapidated cabin across the river burned to the ground. But authorities said late Monday that they were still unaware of any inhabited buildings that have been destroyed by the week-old blaze.

And after several days of dry, windy conditions prime for burning, forecasters were finally predicting a 90 percent chance of rain Tuesday, with showers possible later in the week -- a huge relief for the estimated 670 firefighters assigned to the fire by Monday evening.

"Everybody's talking about it," said Brad Nelson, a spokesman for the local borough's fire department.

The rain won't put out the flames, he added, but "it'll make a huge impact."

On the north side of the Kenai River, where the fire was burning actively, crews worked to seal off its western flank from Kenai Keys and from Sterling, and ultimately hoped to wrap around the fire's northern edge. If that doesn't work, they plan to use Skilak Lake Road, south of the Sterling Highway, as a fire break, Nelson said.

Nearby, on the opposite side of the river, crews also lit a controlled burn Monday to solidify a fire buffer in the area of Funny River Road, which stretches about 20 miles along the southern shore of the Kenai.

The wildfire wasn't directly threatening homes there like it did earlier in the weekend, but sporadic small fires in burned-over areas kept crews busy, said John Hohl, whose small home sits near a containment line where firefighters almost lost control of the blaze on Saturday.

"There's a lot of spot fires popping back up," Hohl said in a phone interview.

But "there's very little timber left, very few stands. Everything's black as far as you can see," he added.

At the fire's western edge, near Kasilof, officials lifted an evacuation advisory that had been in place for three days for a pair of subdivisions.

Firefighters were working to secure a containment line along that whole side of the fire, from Funny River Road south to Tustumena Lake, and were "having more success on that side," according to Bernie Pineda, a spokesperson for the management team that's coordinating the response to the fire.

He added that crews expected to have the line "buttoned up" by late Monday.

The eastern section of Funny River Road -- an area with an estimated 900 residents and 1,000 structures -- remained under an evacuation order Monday, although officials didn't force people to leave their homes, and an indeterminate number of residents stayed behind.

Officials planned an update at 9 a.m. Tuesday. Nelson said they were optimistic the area would reopen.

A local fishing lodge in Soldotna, Hooligans, was providing free rooms for an estimated 130 evacuees Monday, or "160 if you include cats and dogs," said Heather Lee, an employee there.

Eight more people had checked into a shelter at a local school, officials said. And about 50 stayed in campers Sunday night at a local sports complex; more recent figures were not immediately available.

Kenai Keys scare

On Monday afternoon, dozens of firefighters were stationed in and around Kenai Keys, a dense subdivision where cabins and large, upscale log homes sit along canals carved into the northern bank of the Kenai River, about 15 miles east of Soldotna.

A day earlier, part-time and year-round residents gathered on the riverbank and watched a wall of flames come roaring up to the opposite edge, with winds lofting half-dollar-sized embers that landed on property across the river.

Community members, some on ATVs and armed with five-gallon buckets, patrolled the neighborhood, "roaming around looking for hotspots," and caught several, said Burke Wick, 57.

A small fire started under a deck, and a roof also started burning on another building, but both were put out, with firefighters and a bucket-toting helicopter aiding the community response.

The Kenai Peninsula Borough distributed an evacuation advisory for the area to media just before 6 p.m. Sunday, but several residents said that suggestion came far later than it should have, since the wildfire had made its run at the neighborhood hours before.

Earl Smith said he had taken his kids to play in Soldotna earlier Sunday, unaware that the Funny River Fire posed any risk.

"Did you find out who was in charge of giving us notice over here? Because we had none," Smith said. "The notice was the fire knocking on my door."

Nelson, the spokesman for the local fire department, said Smith was "speaking the truth."

"The fire was just erratic as heck for the last three days, and it did some stuff they didn't expect," he said. "And when it did, they tried to give them a heads-up as early as possible that these guys might be affected. I just don't think they expected the fire would go there."

By Monday, the active part of the fire north of the Kenai was burning to the east of Kenai Keys, with a broad column of smoke visible on the horizon.

Residents weren't concerned for their immediate safety, but Frank Turpin, 66, said that's because the wind was still pushing the fire away from the neighborhood.

"If the wind shifts, it could get ugly," he said, as he paused from trundling a wheelbarrow around his home. "And that's what we're getting ready for."

About a mile up the river from Kenai Keys, where the fire jumped across Sunday, charred stands of limbless spruce stood over an ashen gray-brown ground.

Some spots were still warm, with flames flickering from the occasional stump as birds chirped and wheeled above the water.

'Aimed at the cabin'

Kenai Keys residents had the advantage of the 300-foot-wide river standing between the fire and their property on Sunday.

Blake Gettys didn't.

He's had his compound, which includes a cabin and several other trim, green buildings, since 2001. It sits across from Kenai Keys, on the southern shore of the Kenai, and is the only inhabited property in the immediate area on that side of the river.

Gettys, 48, a colonel in the Air National Guard, arrived at the compound Friday for a Memorial Day weekend with friends.

His wife had died unexpectedly the previous Sunday; he's preparing to travel to her burial in Ohio and will bring some of her ashes back to Alaska. She called the compound his "mistress," Gettys said.

By Saturday morning, it was clear the fire was headed his direction. Gettys and nine of his friends piled brush, cut trees, and used three pumps to spray what they guessed was 100,000 gallons of water around the property.

"It was like a swamp," said one of those friends, Steve Latham. One building even developed a moat.

Gettys worked until 3:30 a.m. Sunday, then woke up at 7 a.m. and continued until the fire forced the group to go.

Everyone piled into boats to cross the river to Kenai Keys.

The fire was so close, "I could feel it on the back of my neck," said Latham.

On the far side, they watched the approach of a wall of flames that towered above the trees.

"It was like it was aimed at the cabin," said Latham. "I think everybody was convinced it was gone."

Gettys said he kept waiting to see flames rushing up the trees behind his cabin. "It finally got too consumed in smoke to see it any more," he said.

The group kept their eyes on Gettys' American flag at the edge of the water. It didn't catch fire.

Finally, he and Latham took a boat back across the river.

There were isolated pockets of flames burning inside the border of the compound; wood piles and hoses scattered within the property had been scorched, some directly beneath unburned, bone-dry spruce trees -- the same kind of spruce trees that have fueled the growth of the wildfire for the last week.

But the whole property essentially remained an island of green, within a sea of charred forest. Every single structure was untouched.

"There's not even a smudge mark on a building," Gettys said.

He and Latham put out the fires using buckets and water from the moat. Packages of food that the group had left outside didn't even melt -- Gettys said he pulled and ate a marshmallow from one such package.

A firefighter told one of Gettys' friends it looked like someone had placed a cup over the property before the fire came through.

The group came back across the river, and cooked salmon for dinner. They worked until 11 p.m. Sunday, and had soaked a huge ring around the outside of the property by Monday afternoon.

Gettys was headed home to Eagle River; at least one of his friends would stay to keep an eye on the property.

Ultimately, Gettys plans to bury his wife's ashes at the compound.

"This was kind of a peaceful place for us," he said.

Reach Nathaniel Herz at nherz@adn.com or 257-4311. Laurel Andrews contributed to this report.

 


By NATHANIEL HERZ
nherz@adn.com