Umiat fire wipes out lodge

Posted: Thursday, June 12, 2003

ANCHORAGE (AP) A blaze fueled by high winds on the North Slope engulfed the few buildings in the tiny settlement of Umiat on Tuesday, the state fire marshal's office said.

The fire apparently began about 3:30 p.m., and the Umiat Lodge complex was ''a complete loss,'' said Theresa Ross, state deputy fire marshal supervisor in Fairbanks. Umiat is about 150 miles southeast of Barrow and has no firefighters, Ross said.

About 20 people were staying at the lodge but no one was hurt, said Carole Romberg, coordinator for Taiga Ventures, a remote logistics company owned by an Umiat Lodge partner. The lodge owns the only structures in the settlement, including sleeping units, a kitchen, dining area and water treatment plant, she said.

Co-owners Mike Tolbert, Mick Killion and Tony Karl were in Umiat on Wednesday to look at the damage, she said.

''I think it destroyed everything with the exception of several generators,'' she said.

About a dozen employees from Anchorage-based Jacobs Engineers on contract with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers were staying at the Umiat Lodge, using it as a base for work removing oil and petroleum products from the soil, said John Killoran, spokesman for the corps.

Jacobs employees flew into Umiat soon after breakup and were planning on staying the summer to complete the two-year project, he said.

Killoran said lodge owners told him the blaze started in the water treatment plant. He said the engineering company whisked the employees out of Umiat on Tuesday, since there was nowhere to stay.

The Corps of Engineers still hopes to finish the cleanup project this summer, Killoran said, but he did not know when employees will be able to return.

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