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Aug 31 2015
Homes Protected as Containment Continues on Chiniak Fire PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 31 August 2015
Jay Barrett/KMXT
The State Division of Forestry says homes on the north flank of the Twin Creeks Fire – the official name of the Chiniak blaze – have safe, defensible space around them, after four days of work by an ever-growing crew of firefighters.

They have completed a half mile of that northern fire line nearest the residences there in Chiniak, so that area, at this time, we're confident in saying those structures are no longer threatened by the fire,” said Jim Schwarber, a fire information officer with the Alaska Division of Forestry

Despite gusty winds returning on Sunday, Schwarber said they did not cause any new flare ups.

“Current weather has kept fire activity minimal compared to when things started Thursday night on this fire. The fire growth was minimal yesterday. We do have 10 percent containment of the 5,300-acre or so fire at this point in time,” Schwarber said. “We are working toward 100 percent containment. That is the objective on this fire. We're working to make sure this fire will no longer threaten any of the communities there in Kodiak Island.”

To help contain and mop up the numerous hotspots, Schwarber said more crews arrived all weekend.

“On the ferry last night we had hotshot crew came in. The Yukon Type II initial attack crew came in. That was an important resource we were competing with other fires in the Mat-Su for, and we're glad to get them here. I think they're the third or fourth 20-person crew to show up and we have a Type III management organization in place,” he said. “If we need additional resources we'll be asking for them, but right now, we're in position to make good steady progress on this fire.”

The forecast is calling for gusty, though steadily decreasing, winds through tonight, becoming light and variable tomorrow. Rain returns to the forecast late Wednesday.

With the state division of forestry on-scene and in control of the firefighting efforts, the joint city-borough emergency operations center has been shut down.

One family's home, not three as was reported Friday, was lost to the flames. There is a community effort online over the weekend to find the family a trailer to live in, as they were reportedly staying on their property in a tent. The community's small library was also destroyed.

Residents of Chiniak were allowed back to their property Friday afternoon, but Schwarber cautions residents and visitors that trees with roots weakened by the flames could fall down with little or no notice. 
Aug 31 2015
Cowboys, Reindeer Hot Dogs, and Alutiiq Songs at Kodiak Rodeo and State Fair PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 31 August 2015
roping_a_steer_photo_by_pam_foreman_kmxt.jpgParticipant roping a steer. Photo by Pam Foreman/KMXT

Kayla Desroches/KMXT

The Kodiak Rodeo and State Fair came to town this weekend. It continued from Saturday to Sunday with food, exhibits of award-winning produce, and of course, rodeo sports. You could see local cowboys and cowgirls doing everything from lassoing steers to riding horses that put up a fight. We spoke to a few of the participants.

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Chris Manis is from Kenai and says it’s his second year riding saddle bronc. He says he also rides bulls and he first got involved in rodeo events through an Alaska Veterans of Foreign Wars charity event.

“Once I rode my first bull, just meeting the people, the cowboys, the old timers, they’re just so willing to help and just good standing people that you want to be around, and the more and more I got around them, the more and more I learned, the better I got,” says Manis. “And it’s changed my life for the better.”

He’s one of a handful of cowboys who flew into Kodiak for the island’s rodeo. 22-year-old Chaz McDonald from Texas is one of the bull-fighters of the bunch. His job is to distract the bull.

“I make myself a bigger target that the rider, so that the rider can get up and get out clean and safe. If that means I gotta take a hit, then it’s part of the job, and I get the job done,” says McDonald.

And sometimes he does take a hit or two.

“I got my jaw knocked out of socket up in Fairbanks. I got behind a bull and got kicked in the face. I’ve had my jaw wired shut, broke my pelvis, popped both hips out of socket. I’ve had my fair share.”

He says he’s been bull-fighting for four years. And as with any dangerous activity, this one takes concentration.

“I step in there and everything kinda goes blank and I focus on what I need to do and you can talk to me all you want, but I’m probably not gonna answer ‘cause I’m not hearing you. I get real focused just like the riders do when they get on the back of ‘em, they’re in the zone, and when you’re in that mood, you’re not thinking about anything but what you’re supposed to be doing.”

Good support staff is important for the safety of all involved.

Wyatt Finley is a Kodiak resident who’s originally from Florida and is experienced with ranch work. He says he’s providing help with the stock and readying them for the stadium activities. And although he doesn’t ride bulls anymore because of the risk, he remembers how it felt and says riders have a popular calming technique. Chewing or smoking tobacco.

“Once you get off, you’re jittery, you can’t feel anything, so you putting in a nice chew or light up a smoke, it sounds dumb, but it works. It calms your nerves,” says Finley. “The nicotine in it, it settles you down. You sit down and chill out. It’s a lot of stress on your body getting on one of those bulls or those broncs.”

And when the rodeo ends for the day, you can walk outside and get a snack at the fair, see the prize-winning produce, or even go on a hay ride.

For lunch, you can stop at the handful of booths selling everything from reindeer hot dogs topped with chili and cheese to crepes chock full of nutella and bananas. Vendors at the farmer’s market side sell baked goods, like zucchini muffins, or creative fruit preserves like rhubarb and strawberry or hot pepper. Then inside a building on the fair grounds, you can walk around and view giant vegetables, go to the petting zoo, or listen to the roosters.
The Kodiak Alutiiq Dancers also performed, and group coordinator, Candace Branson, says they’ve just learned a new song which they would perform at the event.
“It’s … about when the Russians came and were taking men away from the villages and they were taking them to go hunting and they were taking them for war and scouting, and many times the men wouldn’t return and so when the boat left full of Native men, the women would cry on the beach, so this is the song they would sing about that experience.”

Despite the rain Saturday and the fire in Chiniak just a few nights before the event, people walk around outside and families fill the rodeo seats. It’s a Texan brand of entertainment - enjoyed Alaskan style.
Aug 31 2015
Turnovers Fuel Kardinals' Win Over Bears PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 31 August 2015
Jay Barrett/KMXT
The Kodiak Bears faced a strong Kenai defense in an early Saturday game, and gave up the ball five times, leading directly to three scores by the Kardinals.

Kenai downed Kodiak at Joe Floyd Field 46-18 for their first win of the season.

The Bears are now 2-and-1 over all, and 1-and-1 in the Northern Lights Conference. They will host the powerhouse Soldotna Stars next week. 

Meanwhile Kodiak's runners were on the mainland at the Bartlett Invite. The Bears were led by junior Keith Osowski, who placed fifth with a time of 16 minutes, 18.7 seconds. Overall, Kodiak had four runners in the top 22.

Michael Parnell was 10th, Jack Hannah was 12th and Richie McKinney was 22nd, all of them within a minute of Osowski.

West Anchorage won the meet with 73 points, followed by South Anchorage with 107, Kodiak's 109, Chugiak's 141, and Service's 158, which was good for fifth.

The Kodiak girls were 8th, led by Zoe Bigley in 18th, with a time of 20 minutes 19 seconds.

Chugiak won the meet with 64 points, followed by West, Colony, Kenai and Service. Kodiak had 227 points. 
Aug 28 2015
Chiniak Wildfire Takes One Home, Library PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 28 August 2015
Active hot spots on Leisnoi property spotted in Chiniak during an overflight Friday morning. Photo by Kodiak Fire Chief Mullican 
Jay Barrett/KMXT
The wind-whipped wildfire that threatened Chiniak on Kodiak Island may not turn out to be the community-wide disaster it appeared it might become when officials ordered the evacuation of all residents Thursday night. 

Many Kodiak residents were up all night watching flames leap from the Chiniak area, worried about friends and relatives, but this morning when Kodiak Fire Chief Jim Mullican made an overflight of the community this morning and was surprised at what he saw.

“Very surprising compared to some of the pictures that were out on the internet and such of that huge wall of flame we could see from Deadman's,” he said. “There obviously are some burned areas out there but it's not the devastation you would think. It surprised me.”

One home and the Chiniak Library were burned to the ground, and other homes and structures were visibly damaged

“The loss of property, personal property doesn't appear to be substantial,” Mullican said. “There are people who lost their home, absolutely, and my heart goes out to them. But overall, we really lucked out, because this was setting up to be a very bad thing.”

The Chiniak K-8 School, on the same street as the library, was not damaged.

As of 2 p.m. the blaze had settled down enough that Chiniak residents were being allowed back into their homes, though the road is still closed to non-residents at the Roslyn Beach Bridge. 

Mullican said he saw numerous hot spots in the area when he overflew the area, but only two of them were actively burning.

“One of them was out at Seaquell Point, and it was actually burning out toward the ocean itself, and it was really close to the point, so basically the wind was pushing it off into the ocean area. And another area a little bit further back up in the hills, it was burning really good, but it wasn't moving anywhere. There doesn't seem to be any drive.”

Kodiak Emergency Operations spokeswoman Nova Javier said three Alaska Division of Forestry aircraft and 15 smoke jumpers are in Kodiak to lead the effort in stamping out the fire, and 50 more firefighters are available if the blaze flares back up. 

The Forestry planes were delayed by dry west winds gusting to 65 mph, which whipped up volcanic ash from the Valley of 10,000 Smokes on the Alaska Peninsula. The ash-laden wind grounded several commercial air flights to Kodiak Thursday night and this morning.

National Weather Service forecaster Cameron Betts in Kodiak said maximum sustained winds last night reached 50 mph, with the highest gust to 65 mph. The winds drove the flames several hundreds of feet into the air, and were clearly visible in Kodiak City, 10-miles across Chiniak Bay.

Betts says he expects a brief lull in the wind and a bit of rain starting Saturday morning, but a return to windy, drier, conditions next week.
“Roughly right around, I would say, 4- 5- o'clock in the morning it should start raining. But by afternoon it should break up into more showers than steady rainfall,” Betts said. “So we're going to get a decent amount. It will be measurable, but I don't think it'll be enough to where it'll help out with that fire any.”

There is no immediate cause identified as the start of the fire, estimated to have covered over 2,000 acres, but it may have been a powerline or transformer damaged by the winds. Kodiak Electric Association CEO Darron Scott said that reports of outages in the Chiniak area began coming in just before the fire around 9 p.m. 

Kodiak City Manager Aimee Kniaziowski, who serves as the joint city-borough emergency management coordinator, said no injuries were reported and everyone from Chiniak appears accounted for.

The evacuation watch for residents of nearby Pasagshak was lifted Friday afternoon. 
(this story was updated to reflect that only one home was lost.) 
Aug 28 2015
Strong, Dry Winds Contributing to Fire Activity PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 28 August 2015
Jay Barrett/KMXT

The Chiniak fire has been spared the K-8 school, but the Chiniak Fire has claimed the nearby library and three homes.

Extremely dry and windy conditions have fanned the flames and made air travel and firefighting from the air difficult.

Ash from the Katmai-Novarupta volcanic explosion over 100 years ago, just across the Shelikof Strait caused the cancellation of several Alaska and Ravn flights last night and this morning. Cameron Bets, a forecaster with the National Weather Service in Kodiak, said maximum sustained winds last night reached 50 mph, with the highest gust to 65 mph.

He expects a brief lull in the wind and a bit of rain starting tomorrow morning, but a return to windy dry conditions next week.

“Roughly right around 4-5 o'clock in the morning it should start raining. Should get a decent amount. But by afternoon and into the evening it should break up into more showers than a steady rainfall,” he said. “We going get a decent amount, it should be measurable, but I don't think it'll be enough to where it'll help out with that fire any.”

The fire, estimated to be over 2,000 acres in size, started around 9 o'clock Thursday night, possibly because of a downed powerline or exploding transformer caused by the high winds. Darron Scott of Kodiak Electric Association said that reports of outages in the Chiniak area began coming in before 9 p.m., though there were no reports of downed powerlines. The power is still out past the Chiniak post office.

Kodiak City Manager Aimee Kniaziowski, who serves as the joint city-borough emergency management coordinator, said Chiniak residents past Roslyn Beach were evacuated last night, and the road at that point remains closed. No injuries have been reported

Residents of the nearby community of Pasagshak have been warned to prepare for evacuation in event the winds change. 

This is a developing story, and we'll update it as more information becomes available. 
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