State Briefs

Posted: Monday, June 02, 2003

Tok wildfire slows, but is still a problem

ANCHORAGE - A wind shift, increased humidity, lower temperatures and lots of fire retardant stalled a wildfire near Tok, but not until the blaze tried to make a run toward the Glenn Highway.

Alaska State Troopers went door-to-door late Saturday warning residents in the area they may have to evacuate if things got much worse. The wind shifted, however, and the fire slowed no longer putting a subdivision with about 10 homes in immediate danger.

Division of Forestry spokesman Pete Buist said Sunday the situation improved overnight, but the winds were picking up again. He said no one responded to the evacuation warning by showing up at the local school.

Buist said by Sunday the fire, which began Tuesday, had scorched more than 4,100 acres but had pulled back to between five and seven miles south of the city of Tok.

Vandals strike again

ANCHORAGE - Vandals spray-painted green and gold graffiti over one-third of an Anchorage high school and pumped glue into locks on classroom doors and lockers on the building, causing an estimated $50,000 in damage.

The new round of vandalism angered schools Superintendent Carol Comeau who surveyed the damage Saturday at Dimond High School.

The spray-painted messages, some profane and blasted across windows, walls and floors, trashed Dimond and lauded Service High School.

All the spray paint, streamers and string were green and gold, the Service colors. Among the words sprayed on walls: "D Sucks," "SHS" and "Service Cougars." Dimond is consistently misspelled "Diomond."

This is the latest in a series of high-profile vandalism attacks on district property. Early in May someone set fires at the new South Anchorage high school south of Huffman Road. Vandals in March cut brake lines on 50 school buses in Eagle River. Last June, two boys destroyed equipment at the district's South Anchorage maintenance facility. Destruction at the new Dimond construction site in December 2001 caused more than $100,000 in damage.

Dimond has an alarm system, but school officials said it wasn't turned on Friday night.

Bears being relocated away from McGrath

McGRATH - Rather than shooting wolves from airplanes and helicopters, biologists are capturing and moving bears in hopes that it will give moose calves in the McGrath area a better chance to survive.

Wildlife biologists captured and moved 86 bears, most of them black bears, from a 520-square-mile area surrounding McGrath in the last 2 1/2 weeks in an attempt to prevent bears from killing newborn moose calves.

Wildlife biologists have spent the last three weeks flying around the town of 450 residents in helicopters combing the woods, sloughs and meadows for bears. Bears that weren't shot with tranquilizer darts from helicopters were caught in specially made foot snares by trappers zipping up and down the river in boats.

About 50 people were standing on the bank of the Kuskokwim River Thursday in McGrath when Danny Grangaard and Ted Spraker pulled up in a riverboat with a grizzly bear draped over the bow and a black bear lying across a seat.

Grangaard and Spraker were hired by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game to help catch bears. Once caught, they are being loaded on planes, flown at least 200 miles from McGrath and dropped off on remote airstrips throughout the Interior.

According to studies by biologists the past two years, bears kill more newborn moose calves than wolves. Of the 86 moose calves that biologists put radio collars on last spring, bears killed more than 40 percent while wolves killed a little more than 30 percent.

New food program operating in Fairbanks

FAIRBANKS - A new food program will provide about 50,000 pounds a month of government food, including five-pound blocks of cheese, for the poor.

The food is being trucked to Fairbanks from Kansas and distributed through the Fairbanks Community Food Bank. The new food program, run by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is called the Commodity Supplemental Food Program.

The food bank started handing out the food boxes on May 21 after the first food shipment arrived. To accommodate the windfall of food, philanthropist and food bank supporter Dennis Wise is remodeling at the food bank warehouse in order to create more storage space.

The new program increases by half what the agency hands out monthly and strengthens the food bank's reach to Interior villages. Slots to receive a monthly food box are still open, and the food bank is looking for organizations to volunteer to prepare the food boxes.

Ex-scout leader accused of sexually abusing young girls

ANCHORAGE - Numerous sexual abuse charges have been filed against a former Boy Scout leader from Eagle River who is accused of abusing three girls during the past 18 months.

Ted Charles Beard, 37, is charged with sexual abuse of a minor amid allegations involving the girls, who are between the ages of 11 and 15, police said.

Beard, who also worked with church youth groups, is charged with more than 20 counts of abuse and attempted abuse. He is being held at the Anchorage jail on $50,000 bail.

Detective Kevin Vandegriff said police learned of the alleged abuse from Providence Alaska Medical Center in early April, after Beard went to the hospital's emergency room with suicidal tendencies and told staffers he had been sexually inappropriate with two young girls.

Police launched an investigation, and Beard was arrested April 3 on eight counts of sexual abuse of a minor. Afterward, the children disclosed more incidents, Vandegriff said, and more charges were added.

Beard pleaded not guilty Wednesday. His trial is scheduled for Aug. 11.

Goose disrupts power in Anchorage

ANCHORAGE - A goose flew into a utility's electrical equipment in Anchorage last week, disrupting power for about 30,000 customers in south and east sections of the city.

The accident Thursday morning caused an electrical line that feeds seven other substations to de-energize, said Patti Bogan, a spokeswoman for Chugach Electric Association. The substations went off line shortly before 7:30 a.m. The goose died in the mishap.

Chugach began restoring power at 8:08 a.m., according to Bogan. She said all customers had service by 8:27 a.m.

The incident was reported to wildlife officials.

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