Construction-related blast triggers rock slide across North Tongass Highway

A rock slide covers the North Tongass Highway. (Photo by Susan Heisler)

A contractor’s controlled explosion went awry, triggering a landslide that buried North Tongass Highway under feet of rock and rubble Tuesday. The blast happened around 5:30 p.m. and closed the road for nearly seven hours. 

North Tongass Fire Chief Jerry Kiffer says the volunteer fire department responded to the blast about 13 miles north of downtown Ketchikan

“The roadway was covered with rock. The northbound lane was covered by about 20 feet of rock debris, southbound lane was covered with six to eight feet,” Kiffer said.

Crews from the Department of Transportation worked along with the firefighters and passersby to clear the highway. He says the road was back open to traffic in both directions by about midnight. 

A spokesman for the Alaska State Troopers confirmed the blast came from a nearby residential development and may have damaged a nearby house. Authorities identified the Edna Bay-based contractor as Williams Drilling and Blasting. Neither the address of the property nor its owner have been released.

The case has been forwarded to the state fire marshal which is investigating. 

No injuries were reported.