Alaska Digest

Posted: Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Fire leaves Juneau woman homeless

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JUNEAU - A fire in a barn off the back of Mendenhall Loop Road left one person homeless Tuesday afternoon, according to the Juneau Chapter of the American Red Cross.

Capital City Fire and Rescue crews extinguished the blaze at 9866 Mendenhall Loop, near Steelhead Street, before 3 p.m. Red Cross spokeswoman Linda Wahl said the blaze displaced a woman living in a residence attached to the barn.

In addition to providing cold drinks and snacks for firefighters battling the blaze, the Red Cross provided assistance for the displaced woman to get lodging for the night as well as food and clothing.

The fire also caused a power outage in the area. Gayle Wood, office Juneau office manager for Alaska Electric Light and Power, said taking the power down for about a half-hour was the most expeditious way to prevent a hazard to firefighters attacking the blaze.

Celebration parades Thursday, Saturday

JUNEAU - Both lanes of Willoughby Avenue will be closed from 7:30-9:30 a.m. Thursday during the Grand Entrance for Celebration 2006.

The parade will start at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Hall on Willoughby Avenue and end at Centennial Hall. Participants will march down Willoughby only for the event.

A few downtown streets will also be closed during the Celebration 2006 Parade from 7:30-11 a.m. Saturday.

That parade will start at the Mount Roberts Tram parking lot and end at Centennial Hall. The route will proceed up South Franklin Street to Front Street, take a left on Front and head down Front to Main Street.

At Main, the marchers will take a left, head to Egan Drive and turn right. The parade will continue down Egan, right on Willoughby Avenue and onward to Centennial Hall.

South Franklin Street, from the tram to Marine Way, will be closed for 20 minutes. The event will also require that the northbound lanes of Egan Drive between Main Street and Willoughby Avenue be closed for 20 minutes.

Fort Wainwright soldier killed in Iraq

FORT WAINWRIGHT - A Fort Wainwright Soldier died in Iraq on Monday, Army officials said.

The soldier, who was not identified, died while on patrol in Mosul at 11:50 a.m. on Monday in Iraq.

He was assigned to the 172nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team based at Fort Wainwright, according to Army spokesman Maj. Kirk Gohlke.

Next of kin have been notified, Gohlke said.

New route leaves Fairbanks off Lufthansa schedule

FAIRBANKS - A German airline has pulled out of Fairbanks after 16 years of fuel fill-ups and crew changes.

Lufthansa said "auf wiedersehen" Monday as a small crowd gathered on the flight line and the company's final cargo jet taxied under an arch of water provided by two fire trucks.

The airline's Germany-to-Asia cargo flights will be directed through Kazakhstan in central Asia. Lufthansa will save four hours and more than $12,000 per flight in fuel costs.

The crowd included Lufthansa and airport employees, the crew that brought the last flight in from Tokyo just an hour before, and John Ruth, a van driver for Sophie Station Hotel, where Lufthansa crews have been staying for 16 years. Some spectators shed tears as the plane swooped down for a flyby and then climbed skyward, heading east for Frankfurt.

"I saw a lot of tears in the last four weeks," said Wolfgang Kobitz, district manager of Lufthansa operations.

The airline's cargo operations had about 15,000 landings and filled up with more than 350 million gallons of fuel during stopovers in Fairbanks. At peak times, the airport saw up to 18 Lufthansa flights per week.

Seward can close street for new center

ANCHORAGE - A group of Seward residents struck out last week in an attempt to force an election over a proposed downtown waterfront street closure.

Superior Court Judge Harold Brown rejected their lawsuit seeking to block construction of a new federal visitors center on a site that would close off a street.

The group was trying to give voters a chance to overturn a Seward City Council decision approving the location for the new federal visitors center, which will house offices for the National Park Service and U.S. Forest Service. The group wanted the new federal building built one block to the east.

The group said vacating the street right of way would damage the town's historic downtown grid and block everyone else's view of the mountains.

City and federal officials said they prefer the Washington Street location because it has a great view for those inside and is close to the Alaska SeaLife Center, Seward's major tourist attraction.

Brown ruled last week that the council's decision to vacate the block was, in essence, an appropriation of land, turning the right of way over to adjacent landowners. Appropriations are not subject to being overturned by initiative petitions in Alaska, he said.

Deshka River airboat collision kills two

ANCHORAGE - A man and a 9-year-old boy died when two airboats collided on a curve of the Deshka River.

Jon Chris Wilson, 51, and Benjamin O'Brien, 9, both of Anchorage, died when Wilson's boat and another driven by Allen Scott Holtzheimer, 39, of Wasilla collided Sunday night, Alaska State Troopers said.

Benjamin was a passenger on Wilson's boat. He was a friend of Wilson's son, who also was on the boat, said trooper spokesman Greg Wilkinson.

Three others on Wilson's boat were injured: Jon Wilson Jr., 8, and Bradley Sordahl, 46, of Anchorage, and Sordahl's father, Donald Sordahl, 69, of Washington state.

Holtzheimer also was injured, as were his wife, Stacy Holtzheimer, 30, and her mother, Stephanie Reich, 57, of Gig Harbor, Wash.

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