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Free firewood requests overwhelm railroad answering machine

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Posted: Tuesday, April 3, 2012 11:19 pm | Updated: 1:53 pm, Wed Jan 16, 2013.

FAIRBANKS — If you had visions of getting a cord of free firewood from the Alaska Railroad at Salcha, you were not alone.

A firestorm of firewood-hungry people overwhelmed the Alaska Railroad answering machine Monday, the day the railroad began accepting permit applications.

The railroad gave out 40 permits Monday and the answering machine stopped taking messages when 111 other applicants called to make appointments.

Mark Peterburs, project director for the northern rail extension, said it will take a few days to work through those 111 requests. In the meantime, the permit application process is on hold. When the backlog is cleared, the railroad will post a note on its website and begin to take more calls.

All told, the railroad is giving away about 250 cords of split firewood. About 100 more permits will be issued when the process resumes, perhaps by early next week.

Peterburs said they probably could have given away 1,000 permits Monday, and he apologized for the frustration created by the answering machine meltdown.

None of the firewood is to be given away until May 1, and the applications were to be taken starting Monday to make it an orderly process.

The people who receive permits are scheduling appointments when they have to pick up the free split firewood, which is a mixture of spruce, aspen, birch and others, cut as part of the clearing process for the Tanana River railroad bridge in Salcha.

•••

BIRTHDAY: Linda Bruemmer wants her friends to know that her cat, Oreo, a former member of Companions, Inc., will turn 22 on April 4.

“Thank you to all of his friends who have been praying for him, deepest appreciation to each of you from the bottom of my heart,” Bruemmer said.

•••

ROOM TO OPERATE: The team of medical volunteers from Fairbanks arrived in a remote part of Indonesia after a three-day trip and set up an operating room, hoping to begin operations Tuesday.

Plastic surgeon Chris Jensen and pediatrician Mishelle Nace, along with five registered nurses, three certified registered nurse anesthetists, a certified surgical technician, a volunteer orderly and an engineer are making the trip to assist up to 30 children who need cleft lip surgery.

The volunteer medical professionals are sponsored by the International Friends of Compassion, a charity with deep roots in Fairbanks that has established clinics, an orphanage, a school, homes for patients and other facilities on the island of Halmahera.

If you want to help the cause, tax deductible contributions to help IFC can be made at its website, www.ifcus.org, or by writing to IFC, Box 81823, Fairbanks, AK 99708.

On Monday, Fairbanks nurse Liz Wood wrote on the IFC blog that they worked all day Saturday to transform empty rooms into a “first class OR.”

“We now have a pre-op exam room, a family waiting room and a recovery room ready to go as well. We did this in one day,” she said.

The volunteers planned to take Sunday afternoon off and go to the beach, but she said the thunder, lightning and rain that struck was “the kind you wouldn’t believe were real if you weren’t seeing them with your own eyes.”

She said the translator said they should just wait 15 minutes and things might change. They did.

“After days of nearly unbearable heat and grueling work preparing the surgical areas, we were all delighted to arrive at a breathtakingly beautiful beach,” she said.

“We headed straight in, no need to change clothes, we jumped in the ocean fully dressed, as only men are allowed to show much skin here. Within minutes the banks of the beach was scattered with locals all pointing, laughing and taking cellphone photos of the ‘bules,’ foreigners frolicking in the waves. I’ve traveled a lot and enjoyed many ocean swims, but I don’t remember the ocean being as warm as my bath water, like it is here. The day was delightful.”

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