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Zaz Hollander

A small team on Friday afternoon boarded the scorched natural gas platform in Cook Inlet that caught fire Thursday morning to get a firsthand look at the damage.

The fire at Hilcorp Alaska LLC’s Baker platform near Nikiski was contained by nightfall Thursday. Authorities on Friday said the fire that started in crew sleeping quarters didn’t cause any detectable pollution. Hilcorp shut off any gas production remotely after alarms sounded Thursday morning.

Two response vessels at the platform overnight Thursday into Friday responded to several small flare-ups though the night, according to the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation...

Zaz Hollander

A stubborn fire on a Cook Inlet natural gas platform near Nikiski on Thursday morning triggered the evacuation of four workers but caused no injuries, authorities say.

Firefighting vessels continued spraying water at the Hilcorp Alaska LLC platform into early afternoon, and responders through the day watched for signs of pollution, though none were evident as of late Thursday afternoon.

“We’re encouraged by what we’re seeing at this point,” Hilcorp spokeswoman Lori Nelson said in late afternoon from a command center established in Nikiski. “No spill, no sheen, minimal debris.”...

Zaz Hollander

WASILLA -- Alaska’s eyes may be on the hotly contested November general election, but voters in the Mat-Su area will go to the polls next week to decide everything from Wasilla’s next mayor to the expansion of an existing property tax exemption.

Voters throughout the Valley region will get to weigh in Tuesday on a proposal to increase the property tax exemption for seniors and disabled veterans or their spouses to cover the first $218,000 of assessed home value.

Seniors and the disabled already get an exemption for the first $170,000 of assessed value.

If approved, the expansion would reduce property tax revenue to the borough by $2.4 million, borough officials have said...

Zaz Hollander

WASILLA -- A private company is in the early stages of a proposal to put a dam on the salmon-rich Talkeetna River, which is now home to a classic stretch of Alaska white water.

The proposal comes as the Alaska Energy Authority continues work on a much larger dam proposed for the nearby Susitna River that has cost the state $190 million to date.

Idaho-based Northwest Power Services Inc. on Sept. 19 filed a preliminary permit application with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for a 370-foot dam, part of a 75-megawatt-capacity hydroelectric project the company hopes to investigate on the Talkeetna.

The application was filed on behalf of a new Wasilla company called Glacial Energy LLC...

Zaz Hollander

WASILLA -- A 47-year-old Palmer man who fled to Oregon last year during a criminal investigation was sentenced to nearly 90 years in prison Friday for sexually abusing two children over 10 years as well as possessing child pornography.

The Mat-Su child abuse investigation unit of the Alaska State Troopers in January 2013 received a report that the man had sexually abused a 5-year-old girl and 6-year-old boy. Both are now older than 18.

A Palmer grand jury indicted the man in April 2013 on 41 counts of first-degree sexual abuse of a minor and a Superior Court judge issued a $100,000 warrant for his arrest.

He fled the state during the investigation but was later found in Oregon and extradited back to Alaska, troopers said...

Zaz Hollander

The Alaska Mountain Rescue Group extracted an injured 19-year-old Anchorage hiker and five companions from a gorge near Girdwood's Crow Creek Mine on Sunday night, authorities say.

Alaska State Troopers identified the injured hiker as Stephanie Mraz.

Rescuers say Mraz slipped and injured her ankle after the group descended the steep walls above a creek. Then they all realized they couldn’t get back out as darkness fell and the temperature dropped.

The rescue took place in an area described as several hundred yards from the mine parking lot. By the time the Mountain Rescue Group arrived around 8 p.m., it was “damp, dark and slippery” in the gorge, said team member Matt Green. The hikers were on a flat area in a narrow, steep-sided ravine...

Zaz Hollander

An Anchorage Assembly decision on a contentious Chugiak construction debris dump is on hold for six months after Eklutna Inc. detected potential contamination from a property next door -- the municipality’s old Peters Creek Landfill.

The landfill closed in 1987 and now sits beneath Roberta French Horse Park, near ball fields and between the Glenn and Old Glenn highways off South Birchwood Road.

Anchorage-based Central Environmental Services Inc. wants permission to dump shredded construction and demolition waste at a 17-acre parcel owned by Eklutna next to the old dump. The monofill property is part of a larger 85-acre parcel the Alaska Native corporation hopes to develop...

Zaz Hollander

WASILLA -- The 6.2-magnitude earthquake that jostled the state from Seward to Fairbanks on Thursday morning toppled shelves and broke bottles but otherwise left Alaskans unscathed.

Earthquakes of that size have killed thousands of people in places like Iran, Pakistan and China.

What’s different here?

Building construction plays a role, but “there’s a huge factor of luck in this as well,” state seismologist Michael West said by phone from Washington, D.C.

Luck -- and depth...

Zaz Hollander

WASILLA -- David Estrada dishes up lasagna soup, cinnamon rolls and coffee at the counter of Gathering Grounds coffee house near downtown Wasilla.

The affable, dark-haired 18-year-old isn’t just working for video game money.

The cafe is one of several businesses affiliated with MyHouse, a nonprofit drop-in center for homeless youths celebrating its first year of operation with a public event from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday featuring coffee and food, speakers and music.

Estrada moved out of his mother’s house on Easter this year to escape what he described as constant fights with a relative that cast a pall of tension over his home life...

Zaz Hollander

WASILLA -- The Alaska Department of Law has filed criminal Medicaid fraud charges against the owner of a Mat-Su center for the disabled and the center itself.

The state last week charged the Mat-Su Activity and Respite Center LLC and owner Laura Sasseen with felony falsifying business records and misdemeanor medical assistance fraud charges.

Auditors estimated the center received more than $705,000 in Medicaid overpayments in 2009 alone, court documents say...

Zaz Hollander

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