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Demolition crew prepares to take down last structure next to Big I

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Posted: Tuesday, December 1, 2009 3:44 am | Updated: 12:48 pm, Wed Dec 26, 2012.

Growing up on the second floor of the West Coast Grocery building, Ellucia Boswell recalls that her father was always conscious of fire and for good reason.

In 1949, when the International Bar and Hotel next door burned, everything had to be hauled out of their second story apartment for fear the building alongside the Big I would be the next to go.

As of today, it is the next to go.

“I remember people from all over town came running over, and they moved all of our belongings out into the street,” she said of that fire long ago. “Later on, they moved everything back in and nothing was missing.”

She said there was one other occasion when fire threatened and furniture had to be moved into the street, but the building survived.

From age 7 until she completed high school, Ellucia lived on the second floor of the old building, which could be torn down as soon as today.

Her parents, Elliott and Lucille Hodge, moved to Fairbanks in 1938. Her father operated the wholesale grocery for a quarter-century, supplying the likes of Lindy’s, village stores and other small businesses in those years before the supermarket.

Later on, John Lounsbury bought the building and it was home to a series of restaurants, from Uncle’s to Bobby’s.

The state acquired it and it is the last structure near the Big I to be taken down to make way for the bridge and road work on the north side.

The road between the building and the News-Miner will be closed starting today for about two weeks to give the demolition crew room to work.

•••

FUEL FOR THOUGHT: The state Division of Forestry plans to cut some of the thick black spruce between the Salcha River and Harding Lake to reduce the threat of disastrous fires.

“This project would focus on treating public lands around residential areas and critical resources between the Salcha River and Harding Lake,” the state said. “Areas would be cleared and thinned with a combination of shear blading and chainsaws.”

Removing the black spruce with a sharp blade on a bulldozer and pushing the trees into windrows is more practical and safer than a prescribed burn. The work is planned starting this winter on state land in seven areas covering 580 acres, accessible from the Richardson Highway, Johnson Road and neighborhood trails.

The wood will be available for studies with the Cold Climate Housing Research Center and for personal use firewood. The permit application states those would be the top two priorities for the wood, with on-site burning as a lower priority.

The shear blading is done with a large Cat equipped with a blade that cuts the trees off close to ground level.

The goal is to change the vegetation to birch and aspen, which is more resistant to fire.

A separate proposal to clear 200 acres off Chena Hot Springs east of Nordale Road also is planned for this winter.

Public meetings are planned for next week in Salcha and Two Rivers.

A contract is expected to go out to bid in December.

•••

FIRST RESPONSE: A new federal group coordinated by the U.S. State Department aims to provide an immediate response to crisis spots around the world.

The first person to complete the training program and be qualified  for the Civilian Response Corps under the USAID office is Fairbanksan Harry Bader, who has served in a variety of challenging positions in his career.

Bader is a former University of Alaska Fairbanks professor, a former manager for the Department of Natural Resources and someone who has worked overseas in many nations, most recently in Tajikistan, Iraq and Ukraine.

The idea is Bader and others will be able to deploy on 48 hours notice.

There are to be 91 representatives from the U.S. Agency for International Development in this corps as part of a larger group of 250 people representing several federal agencies.

The Civilian Response Corps was created under a directive from former President George W. Bush.

“The new unit is to play an integral part in the current U.S. national security strategy by bringing coordination between military and civilian operations for stabilizing fragile states and improving the effectiveness of counter-insurgency operations,” a USAID press release stated.

“Bader will specialize in environmental security and work in those areas where natural resource degradation and paucity contribute to conflict,” the government said.

Bader was recognized at a ceremony in Washington last week. His wife, Patsy Bader, has worked extensively in Central Asia.

•••

ASSEMBLY: The deadline to apply for the borough assembly vacancy is 5 p.m. today. Phil Newton, Adam Rushing, E. Andrew Bryan II, Rita Leake and Marjorie Kniffen are the latest to add their names to the fray. Karl Kassel, Glenn Shaw and Diane Hutchison also have applied.

•••

CANDIDATES: Rep. Scott Kawasaki might try for the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor, while Democrat John Brown has opted to compete again for the state House seat held by Rep. Jay Ramras, who is running for the Republican nomination for lieutenant governor.

Political reporter Rena Delbridge of the online newspaper Alaska Dispatch includes these local items in her review of the legislative contests coming up in 2010.

She notes broadcaster Bob Miller, a Democrat, has filed a letter of intent and is expected to challenge Republican Rep. Mike Kelly. Kawasaki said he will decide if he will run for re-election or for lieutenant governor before the next session starts.

When Sen. Gene Therriault resigned to take a job with the Parnell administration, Rep. John Coghill moved to the Senate and Tammie Wilson was named to fill Coghill’s place in the House, both actions by appointment of the governor. They are expected to run next year.

Sen. Joe Thomas and Rep. David Guttenberg have registered to run again, while Kelly filed a letter stating he intends to run and Tim Wert has filed a letter of intent in District 9 for the seat held by Kawasaki.

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