State Briefs

Posted: Tuesday, May 06, 2003

One fire mopped up, another burns 10 acres

JUNEAU - A three-acre fire on west Douglas Island at Middle Point was "mopped up" by Monday afternoon, but a separate fire had spread to roughly 10 acres near the rock quarry at Lena Point, according to David Carr of the U.S. Forest Service.

Carr suspected the Lena Point fire may have been started by a campfire. It was spotted at noon by volunteeers from the Auke Bay Fire Department, who worked at the site for most of the day.

"It's been creeping, mostly on the ground," said Carr, fire staff officer for the Juneau District of the Tongass National Forest. "There's a few snags in the area that are burning, dead trees."

The blaze is approximately a quarter-mile from a microwave tower and a cell phone tower, Carr said. About 15 U.S. Forest Service firefighters will work on the fire today with the help of an Auke Bay Fire tanker truck, Carr said.

"There are predictions of light rain (Monday night) and (this) morning," Carr said. "Those will help, if we can get that. The long-range prediction is still for the dry conditions that we've had."

The west Douglas Island fire was spotted Sunday, and Carr also suspects it may have been started by a campfire. Four firefighters worked on the scene and left by 4:30 p.m.

"We've got it pretty well mopped up," Carr said. "There was a little bit of smoke in the center, but we felt it was safe to leave."

Teens still in hospital, one in serious condition

JUNEAU - The three teenagers flown to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle on Sunday after their car flipped over on Back Loop Road remain in the hospital, Juneau Police Capt. Tom Porter said Monday.

The 17-year-old driver was able to walk away from the accident, which police are investigating.

A 16-year-old boy is in serious condition at Harborview, having been upgraded from critical condition Sunday, Porter said. The other two passengers, an 18-year-old boy and a 15-year-old girl, remain in stable condition.

It is not clear when the teenagers will be released from the hospital.

The car, a 1990 Toyota Camry, hit a guardrail and flipped over around 1:22 a.m. Sunday. Police said the car may have been traveling too fast. Police and hospital officials would not detail the teenagers' injuries.

Mining rules scrutinized; Wanamaker recuses self

JUNEAU - City Assembly members Monday discussed sending proposed changes to the city's mining ordinance back to the Planning Commission, which passed it last month, for further review and recommendations. Instead, they posed questions on the ordinance to the city manager's office, which city staff will attempt to answer in the next few days.

The revisions would speed permitting by making a new rural mine an allowable use not subject to permitting conditions covered by state and federal environmental reviews.

Before discussion on the ordinance began, Assembly member Randy Wanamaker recused himself from participation, saying people had expressed concern he had a conflict of interest.

Wanamaker is the chairman of Goldbelt, Juneau's urban Native corporation, and has worked as an environmental consultant to the mining industry. He also is chairman of the Assembly's Lands Committee and led the charge of the ordinance revision effort.

The Assembly requested that City Attorney John Corso, who was not at the meeting, look into whether Wanamaker has a conflict of interest.

Seized collies from Alaska moved

GREAT FALLS, Mont. - Nearly 200 collies and other animals that were seized in an animal cruelty investigation involving their Alaska owners have been moved from Shelby to Great Falls, Mont.

The owners, Jon Harman and Athena Lethcoe-Harman, were arrested last fall.

The animals spent six months at Camp Collie, a 4-H barn at the Marias Fairgrounds near Shelby. They'll likely spend the next several months in a 20,000-square-foot warehouse - dubbed Camp Collie Great Falls - as the legal case against their owners continues.

The animals were brought to Great Falls because 4-H'ers needed their barn in Shelby and local residents were worn out from caring for the animals since the Harmans were arrested on Nov. 1.

The animals had ridden 2,240 miles in nine days in a crowded tractor trailer from Nikiski, Alaska, to the Sweet Grass border station when customs officials found them dehydrated, weak, sick and cold. The Harmans were moving to Arizona.

The Harmans have pleaded innocent to 181 misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty. Their first trial ended with a hung jury in January. A second trial is expected to begin later this month.

Audit says DFYS wastes travel funds

ANCHORAGE - A state audit found hundreds of thousands of dollars in travel costs are wasted each year by the Division of Family and Youth Services.

The agency often pays full fare for plane tickets for children under state protection who need to travel. In many cases, top-dollar tickets are the only ones available by the time all the required DFYS approvals are met, according to the legislative audit, released last week.

"With a little advance planning, you can make it so much cheaper," said Pat Davidson, legislative auditor.

The state covers travel costs for children in DFYS custody. That includes trips to move to a new foster or adoptive home, to reunite with their parents, to visit relatives, and to get to treatment centers and sometimes to go on vacation.

During the fiscal year that ended June 30, DFYS spent $1.9 million on travel for the children and adults, most of it on airfare, the Anchorage Daily News reported. Of that, DFYS spent about $1.3 million on full-fare tickets in situations that weren't an emergency, according to auditors. Buying tickets in advance could cut that in half, auditors estimated.



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