Alaska Digest

Posted: Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Officials investigate apparent arson

JUNEAU - A fire that burned out Sunday in a house in the Mendenhall Valley appeared to have been deliberately set, said Juneau police and the fire marshal investigating the incident.

Police Capt. Tom Porter said officers got a call from the owner Monday morning reporting that there had been a fire in the unoccupied house in the 9000 block of Trappers Lane, off of Montana Creek Road. Juneau Fire Marshal Rich Etheridge said the house apparently had been broken into on Sunday.

"It was definitely intentionally set," Etheridge said of the fire. It appeared to have burned itself out, he added. He declined to be more specific about details because the incident remains under investigation.

Police reported that the house sustained extensive fire and smoke damage. Etheridge estimated the financial loss at $45,000 to $50,000.

Distressed vessels tie up in Hobart Bay

JUNEAU - Two fishing boats reporting distress early Monday in Windham Bay, about 80 miles south of Juneau, were left in a bay farther south, according to U.S. Coast Guard reports.

Both the Fly By Night and the Hostile reported engine problems and original plans called for them to be escorted by the Coast Guard to Juneau, according to officers in the Juneau Command Center. Late in the day, the Coast Guard reported both were moored in Hobart Bay, the bay to the south of Windham Bay, across Stephens Passage from southern Admiralty Island.

According to Coast Guard reports a helicopter from Sitka responded to the scene and found people aboard the Hostile were able to restart their engines and were towing the Fly By Night. Later Monday, the Coast Guard reported the vessels were no longer in distress.

Bear attacks couple near Skilak Lake

KENAI - A woman received serious head and shoulder injuries after being attacked by a bear Sunday.

Mary Colleen Sinnott remained hospitalized Monday at Central Peninsula General Hospital in Soldotna. Her injuries were not immediately considered life threatening, but hospital officials did not immediately return calls to The Associated Press seeking her condition.

A brown bear, estimated to weigh between 300 and 400 pounds, rushed out of the bushes and attacked Sinnott and John Poljacik, both of Kasilof, as they walked on the Skilak Lake Loup.

Poljacik received some minor scratches in the attack.

"It completely took them by surprise," said Greg Wilkinson, Alaska State Trooper spokesman.

The husband and wife had taken their two 7-month-old Newfoundland puppies on a hike. But when they saw a bear in the distance, they decided to return.

"Just before they got back to their vehicle, they put the dogs back on leash," Shanigan told the Peninsula Clarion. "(Sinnott) said she turned to her left and thought she saw a moose trying to get her, and at that time she was slammed from the side."

Poljacik ran about 100 yards toward the vehicle to grab his pepper spray. The bear then attacked him, scratching his chest and back. Sinnott told the officer she hid behind trees, and Poljacik scared the bear off.

State seeks workers displaced by storms

ANCHORAGE - The state wants to attract skilled workers who were displaced by Gulf Coast hurricanes.

Gov. Frank Murkowski is asking the state personnel board to adopt temporary regulations that would ease nonresident hiring restrictions so the displaced workers can apply as if they were residents.

"We will always preserve our job preference for Alaskans," Murkowski said. "This is an opportunity to alleviate a chronic shortage of skilled workers while helping hurricane victims take the first step toward rebuilding their lives with good-paying jobs," he said.

Labor Commissioner Greg O'Claray said the preference for Alaskans would remain but that Gulf Coast residents would be given priority after Alaskans.

For the next six months the Division of Personnel will ease resident-hire restrictions to allow displaced workers to apply for jobs posted on Workplace Alaska.

The Workplace Alaska Web site is available from links on the state Web site at

Climbers aim to name peak after Alaskan

ANCHORAGE - A group of mountaineers from Harvard University are hoping Kyrgyzstan officials approve their naming a rugged peak in Central Asia after a Boy Scout leader from Alaska.

Mount Powell would honor Scott Powell, one of four Alaska Scout leaders who died in July in an electrical accident while putting up a large tent at the National Boy Scout Jamboree in Virginia.

Climber Corey Rennell, a Harvard student from Anchorage, chose a 14,945-foot peak for Powell, who had been his scoutmaster.

"He molded the way I grew up to appreciate nature and to feel as though kindness and courtesy were the best things human beings could offer each other," Rennell told the Anchorage Daily News.

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