Alaska Digest

Posted: Sunday, June 24, 2007

Vehicle fires keep firefighters busy

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JUNEAU - Juneau firefighters battled two vehicle fires Friday.

At about 10 a.m., firefighters and rescue workers raced to Engineer's Cutoff Road, where a recreational vehicle was fully engulfed in flames.

"When we arrived, the RV was fully involved and heat from the RV was starting to char part of the eaves of the home," Training Officer John George said.

The house was saved, but the RV was a total loss. Damage was about $5,000 to the RV and $100 to the house.

No injuries were reported, and the fire was caused by mechanical failure.

Later in the day, a Chevrolet Blazer caught fire on Egan Drive. Investigators believe transmission fluid leaked and caused the fire. The car had about $1,000 in damage. No injuries were reported.

At about 4 p.m., firefighters received a call about a third vehicle fire and responded to 1991 Toyota Camry on Glacier Highway near Glacier Gardens. But the car turned out to have an antifreeze leak, and there was no fire.

Juneau announces holiday road closures

JUNEAU - Several road closures have been announced in conjunction with Fourth of July celebrations in Juneau and Douglas.

St. Ann's Avenue from Summers Street to Third Street will be closed from 2 p.m. Tuesday, July 3, to 6 p.m. July 4.

The Douglas parade route, marked with no parking signs, will be closed from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. July 4. The Douglas Harbor parking lot is available for parking.

Traffic will halt on the posted parade route in downtown Juneau from 10 a.m. until the parade has cleared on July 4. The parade starts at 11 a.m.

Seven grizzlies killed in defense within week

KENAI - Seven grizzly bears were killed in defense of life or property in less than a week on the Kenai Peninsula, state biologists said, bringing the total for the season to 11.

"I can't emphasize enough how a few simple measures, such as having an electric fence, not leaving out dog food and having garbage in bear-resistant receptacles, could have prevented most of these incidents," said Jeff Selinger, a Fish and Game wildlife biologist.

Several of the shootings involved bears trying to get into chicken coops that were not protected by electric fences, and another took place after a sow charged a man in a tree stand above a black bear bait station.

One shooting that was not in defense was at the Russian River, where a brown bear darted last Wednesday and dyed with fluorescent paint - to identify it as a problem bear - was found dead.

"When we performed the field necropsy, we found that the tranquilizer dart had penetrated the bear's liver," Selinger said.

Selinger called the death unfortunate but said it will not dissuade officials from moving forward with the program in the future.

Fraud sentence in Nigerian scheme

ANCHORAGE - An Anchorage man who lost $150,000 belonging to friends, church members and banks in a Nigerian fraud scheme was sentenced to nearly four years in prison.

Former minister and oil field engineer Bill Allen, 61, was sentenced Thursday to 46 months in prison.

Allen bilked almost a dozen people for four years. He was arrested in August 2006.

The get-rich-quick scam is known as a Nigerian advance-fee scheme. Victims send money to scammers to cover fees with the promise that they will receive back far more money.

"Over the years, I've seen a lot of cases," said U.S. District Court Judge John Sedwick. "In some sense, this is one of the saddest I've ever seen."

Allen had no criminal history. He apologized in court.

"I had no intention of misleading my friends," he said. "I was stupid."

Allen pleaded guilty in March to one count of bank fraud and one count of trafficking in stolen checks and money orders. He agreed to pay his restitution to his victims.

Allen was not a typical scheme participant who responds after receiving an e-mail from Nigerian hucksters, said his attorney, Sue Ellen Tatter, after the sentencing.

Allen worked in the West African country in the 1970s and 1980s on engineering jobs, she said. He left in a hurry after a coup and was owed a substantial amount of money - more than $5 million by the oil-rich Nigerian government and private firms, she said.

Allen was contacted by former friends from Nigeria, Tatter said, and began wiring money to overseas banks.

State: No change to bear marking program

ANCHORAGE - State biologists will continue attempts to color-code grizzly bears near the Kenai and Russian rivers.

A misplaced tranquilizer dart killed the first bear captured. Fast-growing vegetation has made it harder to locate others.

"We're trying to do what's best for the resource," said Jeff Selinger, Kenai Peninsula area biologist with the Division of Wildlife Conservation.

Biologists want bears easily identifiable so problem animals can be relocated or killed before they hurt anyone.

Killing a brown bear along the Russian, they contend, would be better than a bear attack. Bear attacks injure people and often lead to more bear shootings.

Selinger said Thursday there already have been enough Kenai bears killed this year. He is investigating six kills this week in which people claimed defense of life and property.

Grizzlies that try to defend a feeding area can become dangerous and biologists fear that is happening on the Russian River because of salmon carcasses left in the river by anglers.

Over several years, carcasses have tempted young grizzlies to move in where food is plentiful and they have some protection from bigger bears wary of humans.

Biologists worry, however, about what happens when the bears become more aggressive about defending their food along a stream where people are fishing shoulder to shoulder.

Selinger has received reports of tourists rushing up to a sow with cubs near the Russian River ferry to take photographs.

The animals remain powerful and sometimes dangerous. Biologists planned to tranquilize bears in the area and dye patches of fur so people could easily point out animals that start acting aggressively.

A bear Selinger tranquilized last week was hit too far back in the rib cage by the dart. The tip of it struck her liver. Though she was colored, revived and turned loose, the effects of a massive dose of tranquilizer in her liver proved lethal.

If there is another mortality, Selinger said, the capture and marking likely will be stopped.

"It's hard darting up there," he said. "It's not an area that's conducive to this kind of work."

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