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Chiniak Fire 2015, Release No. 12
Kodiak, Alaska — Friday, August 28 — The shelter at the Kodiak Middle School was inactivated.
 
People in need of Red Cross services may contact Red Cross volunteers at (907) 942-5059.
 
The Kodiak emergency operations center is now supporting the State Division of Forestry crews who are on location in the Chiniak area.
 
We encourage you to continue to listen to KMXT for updated information and also watch for updates on the Kodiak Police Department Facebook page.  
 
Aug 28 2015
Chiniak Wildfire Takes Three Homes, Library
Friday, 28 August 2015
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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.”

He said three homes 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 homes, 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. 
 
Aug 28 2015
Strong, Dry Winds Contributing to Fire Activity
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. 
 
Aug 28 2015
Chiniak Fire Claims Library, Spares School
Friday, 28 August 2015
Jay Barrett/KMXT
A growing, wind-whipped wildfire continues to burn out of control in Chiniak.

As of 10 this morning officials reported that while the Chiniak library has burnt down, the nearby Chiniak K-8 School survived.

The blaze began sometime around 9 last (Thursday) night, and may have been sparked by downed powerlines. 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.

All night flames of the rapidly growing fire were clearly visible from Kodiak City, 10 miles across Chiniak Bay. Kodiak City Manager Aimee Kniaziowski, who serves as the joint city-borough emergency management coordinator, said winds gusting to 60 mph caused the fire to quickly grow, forcing evacuation of the small community. 

“We don't know where the fires at. We don't know how big it is. At about 4:30 this morning it was about 2,000 acres,” she said on the KMXT Morning News. “And that was just an unprofessional estimate, so we expect that it's even larger than that now.”

She said the U.S. Coast Guard was planning to send a helicopter to the scene to make an aerial survey of the area burned. 

Air travel to, from, and around Kodiak has been hampered by the strong westerly winds, which whipped up ash from the Katmai-Novarupta volcanic explostion over 100 years ago, just across the Shelikof Strait. Numerous commercial airline flights were canceled yesterday evening and so far this morning.

“We were concerned about the ash in the air that was why when we contacted the state operations folks requesting assistance, they knew they couldn't send any firefighters or anybody out,” Kniaziowski said. “At least certainly last night because of the ash and so forth.”

Several school buses were sent to Chiniak last night  to help evacuate residents. A few were brought to the Kodiak Middle School and spent the night. Kniaziowski said many others checked in and nobody is reported missing.

“We're not too concerned about any one individual. It looks like most people have accounted for. At last count it looks as many as 75 people have reported in and at the shelter,” she said. “We only had a couple at the shelter at the middle school.”)

Kodiak Fire Chief Jim Mullican told KMXT's Pam Foreman before 6 a.m. that people are not being allowed past a certain point.

“We have a roadblock set up at Roslyn Beach. Residents will not be allowed beyond that point,” Mullican said. “We are encouraging residents to not even to go out to that area. The fire is still burning and is still out of control.”

Residents of the nearby community of Pasagshak have been warned to prepare for evacuation in event the winds change. The forecast calls for westerly winds calming a bit today, but still gusting to 40 mph. A small chance of rain is in tonight's forecast, with a slightly greater chance Saturday.

This is a developing story, and we'll update it as more information becomes available. 
 
Aug 27 2015
The Alaska Fisheries Report
Thursday, 27 August 2015

12.82 MB | Download MP3 | Open in popup

 

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Coming up this week, the farthest north salmon fishery is another success, lots of kings made it all the way to Canada this year, and lots of pinks in Kodiak, not so much in Southeast. All that and remembering Don McManman, editor emeritus of Pacific Fishing Magazine, coming up, on the Alaska Fisheries Report. Thanks to Kayla Desroches for sitting in while I was away. We had help with the show this week from KNOM's Matthew Smith in Nome and KFSK's Joe Viechnicki in Petersburg.  

 
Aug 27 2015
City Council Drafts Letter to Inform Environmental Impact Statement for Gulf of Alaska Trawl Bycatch
Thursday, 27 August 2015
Kayla Desroches/KMXT

The Kodiak City Council approved a letter yesterday that may affect the future of bycatch management in the Kodiak Archipelago.

The city council held a special meeting last night in order to sign-off on the final draft of the letter, which it will send to the National Marine Fisheries Service in order to provide input on the Environmental Impact Statement for Gulf of Alaska trawl bycatch management.

City Councilman John Whiddon is also the co-chair of the Fisheries Work Group and says Gulf trawl bycatch measures have been a topic of conversation at fisheries meetings since 2012, and the letter says as much.

“We’ve made the case that we view, and we stand by this statement, that the city – the borough – so, the Kodiak community, is a vital third leg of the stalk,” says Whiddon. “The harvesters and the processors, each comprise the other two legs. And we’re an equally important third leg of the stalk, so that infrastructure – I believe we have an equal stake in the outcome. So we wanted to reiterate that.”

He says the letter identified 10 community goals to ensure a healthy working waterfront. He says proper management is vital and the recent closure of a Kodiak fishery in May demonstrates that.

“There were too many Chinook taken. We were able to go to Sitka in June and actually present our case to the Alaska Marine Fisheries Service – to the council, rather. And I think collectively as a community, the fishing folks, community folks, and processors, we were able to convince them that we needed additional Chinook,” says Whiddon. “So, the outcome of not having a management system is really obvious is that we were shut down.”

Whiddon says until there’s a system in place that allows people to more effectively manage bycatch, the same is likely to happen again. He says he attended a community forum where those present identified one of the goals listed in the letter.

“Pretty much everybody in the room, across the entire spectrum, agreed in order to correctly manage ground fish, there needs to be some form of cooperative,” he says. “There’s no real agreement on what that cooperative would look like, who would own shares, but we restate the fact that there should be a cooperative form of management.”
 
Whiddon says they address consolidation in the document.

“We are concerned about the overconsolidation both on the harvesting side and the processing side, because if there’s overconsolidation on the harvesting side, it could potentially be less crew, less boats and that translates to less shore side support services, principally less taxes generated.”

He says the letter also mentions regionalization and participation criteria.

“That’s a big, big stumbling block for many folks. How do you define who participates? Whether based on – do the folks actually have to be actually on deck, is it based on history, do they get quota, do they get to keep the quota? All those types of things is really, really critical. What we’re trying to avoid is people collecting rent checks from somewhere out of state.”

Whiddon says the deadline for the letter is Friday and that the Kodiak Island Borough Assembly will view the draft tonight. He says he hopes the assembly will approve it, so that the council and assembly can send the letter jointly.

You can find a link to the entire agenda including the letter here.
 
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