Shady Grove Oliver, KBBI - Homer
Rain and cooler conditions have given firefighters a chance to strengthen their effort and get a step ahead in their battle with the Funny River fire on the Kenai. Officials are always trying to plan a few days in advance. But now, they are also looking ahead to the next few months and long-term management of the fire and its effects.
Funny River residents met Wednesday night at the local community center for the first time since the evacuation orders were lifted. Fire management officials were there to update them on continuing operations and to help the community move forward.
Light rain and little wind has helped keep the Funny River fire from growing much for the past two days. It is 30 percent contained and as of Wednesday afternoon, it is estimated to have burned more than 183,000 acres on the central Kenai Peninsula.
The fire management team lifted the evacuation order this morning for Funny River Road from Mile 7 to the end of the road. Homeowners near the road remain under an evacuation alert, which means they should be ready to leave again if the fire gets worse in that area. Residents of Funny River Road were evacuated over the weekend. Many left with just a few necessities and haven’t been back home since.
Video by Sonya Wellman – Alaska Public Media
The Funny River Fire continued to burn the central Kenai Peninsula this week. As of Monday afternoon, it’s estimated to have burned more than 158,000 acres with 30% containment. Funny River Road from Mile 7 to the end was evacuated on Sunday afternoon. The Kenai Keys were put on evacuation alert.
Ten years ago, Wrangell was crawling with feral cats. They roamed the streets, getting into trash and nesting in condemned buildings. Now, it’s hard to even find a cat downtown. That dramatic turnaround is due to the hard work of one woman who noticed the problem and decided to fix it. Dolores Klinke runs the St. Frances Animal Rescue, a non-profit that has saved hundreds of strays.
Like many hospitals in Southeast Alaska, Wrangell Medical Center is starting to look its age. A brand new hospital is still the long-term plan, but for now, the building is getting a much-needed makeover.
Suicide rates in Alaskan communities are some of the highest in the country. Last weekend, the One People Canoe Society held a two-day paddle-making workshop in Wrangell. As part of the workshop, participants attended a behavioral health course on suicide prevention. Its goal is to bring communities together to both learn a traditional art and talk about a contemporary problem.
The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation and the U.S. Coast Guard are still monitoring the site where a tug boat sank and leaked diesel fuel near Wrangell last week.
Federal workers who have been furloughed will likely be paid retroactively once the shutdown is over. And government employees who are remaining on the job during the shutdown will be paid for their work eventually, but they don’t know when. For Alaska families living paycheck to paycheck, that’s a severe hardship.
Municipalities across the state held elections Tuesday. Homer’s ban on lightweight plastic shopping bags went into effect January 1st but nine months later, the ban appears to be history. Homer residents voted to repeal the ban in yesterday’s municipal election.
About 600 voters took to the polls in Tuesday’s elections. Incumbent mayor David Jack will keep his position for another year after receiving three-quarters of the vote.
As in many small towns in Alaska, there are no babies delivered in Wrangell’s hospital. Expectant mothers have to leave town to give birth. When they return, there aren’t many services to help them adjust to life with a new baby. Hannah’s Place is a non-profit that provides free courses for expecting couples and new parents. In exchange for taking these classes, parents have access to a “free” store that has nearly everything an infant needs.
A ballot initiative to lower Wrangell’s city sales tax by 1.5 percent is up for a vote of the public in the Oct. 1 general elections.
Wrangell Medical Center has faced a number of issues over the past few years. Finances, personnel turnover, and design changes stalled the plans for building a new hospital. But now, the plans are back on the table. And the hospital and its board of directors think the project is heading in the right direction.
The town of Wrangell, once called the “sleeping giant,” has seen an awakening of its native culture and history. It began with the Shakes tribal house rededication in May. Last month, it hosted both a national traditional foods conference and a Tlingit basketball camp for kids.