Laurel Andrews

Citing a “significantly underfunded” budget for the new fiscal year, the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services has told Medicaid providers they won’t be seeing the usual rate increases for inflation.

In a public notice posted Monday morning, DHSS filed emergency regulations to freeze rates that customarily rise a percentage point or two every year.

Starting July 1 -- the first day of fiscal year 2016 -- Alaska’s Medicaid program will see a drop of $51.9 million in state funds. Since the federal government matches state expenditures, the total loss of funding for the Medicaid program will be around $100 million...

Laurel Andrews

As crews continue to battle wildfires raging across the state, the town of McGrath is preparing for major changes to its firefighting camp, which provides protection to an area in Western Alaska as large as New Mexico...

Laurel Andrews

Three different insurance companies have announced that they are leaving Alaska’s individual health insurance plan market in the past two months, leaving more than 5,000 Alaskans to find new health care coverage.

Aetna, State Farm, and Assurant Health have all decided to stop offering individual health insurance plans in Alaska. With those companies out of the market, only Premera Blue Cross and Moda Health remain.

The sudden exodus is “not only unusual, it’s somewhat frightening,” Division of Insurance Director Lori Wing-Heier said Friday...

Laurel Andrews

The Matanuska-Susitna Borough announced Thursday the first definitive count of houses destroyed in Willow’s Sockeye wildfire since the blaze erupted Sunday.

Twenty-six homes have been lost in the Sockeye fire. A borough damage assessment found 132 properties that were involved in the fire, borough public affairs director Patty Sullivan said in an email. It wasn’t clear if all 132 held structures.

Those who had homes burned in the fire can return to their property between 11 a.m. and 10 p.m. Friday, according to the Alaska Interagency Coordination Center. The announcement came a day after fire officers warned residents it was too soon to go home...

Laurel Andrews,Zaz Hollander,Tegan Hanlon

Alaska’s remote Cleveland volcano is growing restless again, according to the Alaska Volcano Observatory.

Satellite images have detected elevated surface temperatures on Cleveland’s summit for the past week, and a light dusting of ash was visible in an image taken Sunday, the agency wrote on its website.

“The volcano has entered a renewed period of unrest,” AVO reported, prompting the agency to raise its alert level to advisory and its aviation code to yellow.

The increased temperatures are “consistent with renewed growth of the small lava dome within the summit crater,” and “the possibility of sudden explosions has increased,” AVO said...

Laurel Andrews

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

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

Update, 9:12 a.m. Tuesday:

At 9 a.m. Tuesday, the Card Street Fire was not yet contained or controlled, Alaska Interagency Coordination Center spokesperson Pete Buist said Tuesday morning.

An incident management team was heading to the Kenai Peninsula fire Tuesday.

No injuries have been reported.

Update, 7:37 a.m. Tuesday:

An evacuation area around Sterling expanded overnight as officials added a long list of streets to those under threat from the expanding Card Street Fire...

Laurel Andrews,Tegan Hanlon
Primary Category: 

A grass fire reported Monday afternoon on the Kenai Peninsula grew rapidly through the afternoon, burning six structures and prompting an evacuation order covering hundreds of homes in the Sterling area, emergency officials said...

Laurel Andrews

A grass fire reported Monday afternoon on the Kenai Peninsula grew rapidly through the afternoon, burning six structures and prompting a voluntary evacuation alert covering hundreds of homes in the Sterling area, emergency officials said.

First reported at 1:38 p.m., the blaze – named the Card Street fire -- had burned 75 acres by 3:30 p.m., said Dan Nelson, program coordinator for the Office of Emergency Management.

By 6 p.m., the fire had doubled in size to 150 acres, and six structures had been destroyed, according to Tim Mowry, public information officer with the Alaska Division of Forestry...

Laurel Andrews