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AK Beat: Wildfire burning near Chena Hot Springs

Alaska Dispatch
Alaska Fire Service photo

Wildfire near Chena Hot Springs: A wildfire near Chena Hot Springs, just outside of Fairbanks, Alaska, has grown from 40 acres to 120 over night. The Alaska State Troopers set up a road block at mile 15 of the Chena Hot Springs Road on Monday while crew battled to contain the blaze, but, as of Tuesday morning, the road has been reopened. No structures have been lost and at least four aircraft are involved in containing the fire, according to the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. The blaze has been named the Kanuti Fire. 

Baked Alaska: All-time high temperature records have fallen in coastal Southcentral Alaska on Monday due to a strong ridge of high pressure. The National Weather Service's Anchorage office reports that Southcentral in general is piping hot, with temps hitting the 80s and 90s across the area. But Talkeetna, Cordova, Valdez and Seward have officially broken their all-time high temperature records. Talkeetna reached 94, Cordova and Valdez 90, and Seward hit 88. Valdez's record had been standing since 1953.

Navy names first female Northwest commander: For the first time, a woman is taking over as commander of Navy Region Northwest, overseeing facilities in Alaska, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana and Wyoming. The Kitsap Sun (via the U.S. Navy League) reports that in her new position, Rear Adm. Bette Bolivar, of Honolulu, will take over for Rear Adm. Mark Rich, who is heading to Washington, D.C., to be commandant of Naval District Washington.

Red-flag warning for wildfires: With near-record hot temperatures and dry conditions persisting across Alaska, the state’s Interagency Coordination Center has expanded its red-flag warning for wildfires to much of the 49th state. A Monday report from the center shows a high risk of dangerous fires north to the Arctic tree line. Be careful this week!

Biggest Ship Creek king is smallest winner: A low tide trip to Ship Creek on Friday evening, landed Anchorage fisherman, JoiJi Lino the top spot on the Slam’n Salm’n Derby.  Lino’s 29-pound, 1-ounce king salmon was the smallest winning fish in derby history and only the third winner under 30 pounds.  It almost didn’t happen. Just minutes after the Derby officially ended at noon Sunday, Tom Baker landed a 44-pound fish and arrived at the weigh station.  Baker was given the derby’s Sportsmanship Award, after leaving his monster on the hook by the derby shack for almost an hour, so people could take pictures of the salmon.

In Valdez, women anglers schooling the men: Laurie Deacon, of Litchfield Park, Ariz., is leading the Valdez Halibut Derby with a 158-pound fish and she's not the only woman at the top of the leader board.  In second and third place are a pair of Fairbanks-area women.  Kathy Young reeled in a 134-pounder on Friday night, and Hillary Schaeffer caught a 131-pound halibut on Saturday.  Women and fish pair well in Valdez. The city is home to an annual Women’s Silver Salmon Derby; with about 1,000 anglers last year, it is the largest women’s fishing tourney in the state.  It’s scheduled for Aug. 10 this year.

Bear, BBQ and drinking: Just in case you wondered whether it's a good idea to throw meat at a bear, it's not. A man was out biking at Eklutna Lake north of Anchorage -- as well as apparently drinking -- on Saturday evening when he threw some barbecued meat at a black bear. The bear mauled him, "puncturing his jaw and leaving him with scratches on his back," according to the Anchorage Daily News. Troopers haven't released the man's name because they may charge him with feeding wildlife, which is against the law.

Fairbanks Borough employees gun-free no more?: Assemblyman Lance Roberts has introduced an ordinance that would ban the Fairbanks North Star Borough from restricting employees from packing heat at work. “Gun-free zones are the most unsafe place in America,” Roberts said. The borough will consider the ordinance in the next two weeks.

Flattop strikes again: A hiker had to be medivaced off of Anchorage’s popular Flattop Mountain on Saturday morning. Alaska State Troopers reported that Australian Stefan Von Mergle-Frote, 33, became stranded near the top of the steep trail when he twisted his ankle. That makes two hikers in two weeks flown off Flattop due to ankle injuries.

Wildfire warnings: From Anchorage to Kotzebue, most of Alaska is under wildfire warnings, as unusually hot summer temperatures are forecast to bake Southcentral and the Interior this week.

UAF engineering heads to Mongolia: Professors at the University of Alaska Fairbanks have signed on to establish an engineering school at the new American University of Mongolia. Mining and geological engineering chairman Rajive Ganguli says that Alaska and Mongolia are similiar when it comes to mining, and that Mongolian mining companies will front much of the millions of dollars required for starting the new school.

Adrift in the Arctic: A group of Norwegian scientists want to freeze their soon-to-be retired vessel in Arctic ice to see where it ends up. Inspired by explorer Fridtjof Nansen, whose nautical expeditions 120 years ago included a slow, uncontrolled drift through polar ice, the scientists hope to study the relationship between Arctic ice, the ocean and winter atmosphere. They’ve applied for a hefty grant from the Research Council of Norway to freeze the ship in the winter of 2014–15.

Mat-Su dog shootings: Two dogs were shot with a pellet gun within three miles of each other in the Southcentral town of Butte earlier this month. One dog was shot through the chest, another in the back of the leg. Mat-Su Animal Control is investigating; it says cases of dog shootings are extremely rare.