Alex DeMarban

A controversial effort to allow legal alcohol sales in the Southwest Alaska community of Bethel for the first time in four decades has been tabled by the state Alcoholic Beverage Control Board until it holds a hearing in the community to gauge public sentiment.

The five-member board on Wednesday tabled the application by Bethel Native Corp., through Bethel Spirits LLC, for a liquor store in the community of 6,300. A hearing date was tentatively set for Thursday, Oct. 22, in Bethel. A final decision on the hearing date will be made on Sept. 15.

The move for a hearing in the divided community, which has long been plagued with alcohol-related crime and social tumult, was supported by Bethel Mayor Richard Robb...

Alex DeMarban

The community of Sterling is throwing a wedding for a couple whose home was destroyed in the Card Street wildfire that tore through the area this month.

The couple lost almost everything -- including the wedding dress -- in the fire. But the potluck wedding ceremony at the Sterling Community Center will want for nothing.

That’s because residents and businesses in the area have donated all the frills, said Melissa Daugherty, the volunteer wedding planner and a board member at the center.

“All the little details are being taken care of,” said Daugherty.

Even the wedding dress, which fit perfectly, was donated. When bride-to-be Helen Hope Hunt tried it on, she looked in the mirror and cried...

Alex DeMarban

A recent surge in lightning-sparked fires has helped make this one of the busiest Junes in recent memory for firefighters in Alaska, involving close to 4,000 personnel from all of Alaska’s wildfire crews and numerous crews from Outside.

With a week left, June has seen 309 wildfires flare statewide, “from one end of the Yukon to the other,” said Sam Harrel, a spokesperson with the Alaska Interagency Coordination Center in Fairbanks.

The fires range from less than an acre to the 34,000-acre Chisana River 2 fire in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve and the Tetlin National Wildlife Refuge...

Alex DeMarban

The battle to quash one of the largest fires in Alaska has shifted to a new phase as crews try to protect a prized recreation area that contributes to world-class fisheries on the Kenai Peninsula.

On Friday, Gov. Bill Walker said he issued a disaster declaration for damage from the Card Street fire, as well as smaller blazes burning in the Kenai Peninsula Borough.

“It was blatantly obvious this qualified as a disaster,” said Walker.

The state disaster declaration frees up $1 million of state money to help cover the costs of the fires. A federal declaration may follow, he said...

Alex DeMarban

Alaskans menaced by what is now the nation’s top wildfire remained cautious Thursday, though the heart of the Card Street blaze had raged miles into the unpopulated Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, driven by winds from the west that quadrupled its size to 12,000 acres in the past day.

By Wednesday night, Tom Deal had moved back into his cabin along Kenai Keys Road near Sterling after the fire forced him to evacuate. But he had a “weird premonition” just before going to bed and jumped on his four-wheeler to find a vantage point from which to assess the fire.

What he saw jarred him.

“It was a totally impressive plume of smoke,” and it appeared to be heading back toward Sterling neighborhoods, he said...

Alex DeMarban

Update, 7:25 a.m. Tuesday:

The Card Street Fire tripled in size overnight, according to a situation report from the Alaska Interagency Coordination Center, growing from about 3,000 acres to an estimated 9,000 acres.

Few details were immediately available, but the report said the fire was growing eastward, in the direction of the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge and away from most residential areas. The fire burned through the Skilak Loop area as it headed east, but those areas were evacuated Wednesday.

Original story:

Two new wildfires sparked by lightning along the Sterling Highway on the Kenai Peninsula were smoldering Wednesday, with the larger one unattended because resources were stretched thin, according to forestry officials...

Megan Edge,Alex DeMarban,Laurel Andrews

One Tuesday evening, the Card Street Fire -- seen here from the Funny River side of the Kenai River -- roared toward the neighborhood of Kenai Keys...

Alex DeMarban

The Kenai Peninsula’s Card Street fire grew to an estimated 2,000 acres Tuesday evening as crews continued to battle the blaze that has damaged or destroyed at least 10 structures in Sterling. Lightning had also sparked two fires in the Cooper Landing area on U.S. Forest Service lands, said Terry Anderson, a Division of Forestry spokesman.

“The (Card Street) fire is getting more active,” Division of Forestry public information officer Tim Mowry said at about 5:30 p.m. Tuesday. Fire activity on a scorching day in Southcentral had mostly been on the blaze’s eastern perimeter and had burned into the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, he said...

Laurel Andrews,Megan Edge,Alex DeMarban

Alaska organizations helping families take advantage of the president’s immigration policy said many more young people may be eligible for benefits that include the right to legally drive and work, as well as protection from deportation.

One beneficiary is Daniel Luna-Sanchez, 16, brought to Alaska as a toddler by Mexican parents who remained illegally. He said he signed up so he could get a job and save for college.

“I knew if I wanted to do something with my life, I had to do this” and become eligible to work, said Luna-Sanchez, a West High School student recently hired at J.C. Penney...

Alex DeMarban

The trans-Alaska pipeline will shut down starting Friday for 36 hours of scheduled summer maintenance. Meantime, pipeline operator Alyeska Pipeline Service Co. is assessing the best way to fix a “weeping joint” discovered along an underground section of the line.

The “weep” at a pump station between Delta Junction and Glennallen -- with crude leaking a rate of 1 teaspoon each day -- is contained and under constant monitoring, said Michelle Egan, corporate communications director for Alyeska. It's falling into a drip pan when an employee isn't wiping off accumulated oil with a rag, she said...

Alex DeMarban

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