Alaska Digest

Posted: Sunday, June 11, 2006

Man flips car in early morning crash

JUNEAU - A 19-year-old Juneau man was cited for negligent driving after he apparently fell asleep at the wheel and flipped the 1995 Volkswagen he was driving.

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Police received at call at approximately 5:38 a.m. Saturday reporting a single vehicle rollover accident on Egan Drive near Old Dairy Road. The driver was the lone passenger and alcohol was not a factor, a police statement said.

The investigation reveled that the man was traveling northbound on Egan Drive, drove off the road through the median, struck the ground with the front of the vehicle, causing it to flip on its top and come to rest in the southbound lanes. The vehicle was totaled.

The driver was transported to Bartlett Regional Hospital, where he was treated for minor injuries.

Parks Highway fire covers 20,000 acres

ANCHORAGE - A wildfire threatening the city of Nenana claimed a second house Friday night, and officials called for a voluntary evacuation of the town's 550 residents as a wildfire in the area grew to nearly 20,000 acres by Saturday.

Winds picked up earlier than usual on Saturday, and the firefighting effort was bolstered from 300 to nearly 350 firefighters, said Tom Kempton, fire information officer.

The blaze was accidentally set three days ago when someone dumped some hot ash into the woods, officials said.

"More firefighters are showing up constantly," he said.

Crews will focus on keeping the fire from crossing the Nenana airstrip to the city and protecting about 40 structures and a bulk fuel plant along the Parks Highway south of Nenana, Kempton said.

The growing, wind-driven blaze parallels the highway on the east side but is fingering its way across the road and burning pockets of wildlands on the west side of the highway.

"There's been no disruption of highway traffic or the Alaska Railroad yet," Kempton said about 12:30 p.m. Saturday.

The fire is burning along a 10-mile-long, mile-wide swath to the Tanana River.

A handful of people left Nenana for Fairbanks. About a dozen people reportedly slept in a Red Cross shelter at the Nenana High School.

The fire is drawing the most fire crews because of its close proximity to communities, but it's not the largest in the state, said Maggie Rogers, spokeswoman for the Alaska Fire Service. A fire being monitored north of the Yukon River has burned more than 50,000 acres.

Nenana Mayor Jason Mayrand said the smoke at times is "eye-tearing thick."

Resident Penny Forness packed her car and hauled away a boat and a four-wheeler. She is living in her recreational vehicle as her husband, Jack, assists in efforts to protect their house.

"We live by the bulk fuel plant," Forness said, " so we know what's serious and what isn't."

Other evacuees opted to stay with friends or family in Nenana or to travel to Fairbanks, according to volunteers.

What happens next with the wildfire depends on the weather, which is expected to remain hot, dry and windy over the next few days, according to the National Weather Service.

"This looks like a long duration fire to me," said Tom Kurth, fire incident commander.

Weather hinders search for climbers on Mount Foraker

ANCHORAGE - Chances are slim that two climbers missing on Mount Foraker for more than a week have survived, but officials on Saturday said they are sticking to search plans that assume the women are alive.

"Probably at this point it would take a lot of luck and a miracle for them to still be alive," said Kris Fister, a spokeswoman for Denali National Park and Preserve. "With each day that goes by the likelihood they can survive is less and less."

Clouds and high winds have kept searchers from getting a good look at the summit since the search began on June 1, for Sue Nott, 36, of Vail, Colo., and Karen McNeill, 37, of Canmore, Alberta.

The mountain was still shrouded in cloud on Saturday, frustrating efforts for yet another day.

"We are still going to continue the search until we can see the summit area," Fister said.

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