Kenai refuge cabin burns; cause being investigated

Posted: Monday, June 16, 2003

A popular public-use cabin in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge has been destroyed by fire.

The Finger Lakes Cabin, off Swanson River Road, was burned to the ground sometime between June 1 and 9. The cause of the fire is not yet known, said Bill Kent, supervisory ranger at the refuge.

A refuge volunteer working in the area discovered the destruction last Monday, after going to check on the cabin. A work crew had been at the cabin a week earlier, preparing to replace the sill logs and doing other repairs. The materials for those repairs were stored near the cabin and were not destroyed by the fire.

The cause of the fire is being investigated by refuge law enforcement officers, as well as Alaska State Troopers.

"Our folks are trained in arson investigation, but mainly wildfires, so this is new for them, so we're asking around for a little help," Kent said.

The cabin site is down an access road leading to an oil pad that connects with Swanson River Road. The access road is blocked by a gate. It is about a mile walk down the access road and through the woods to the cabin site.

The Finger Lakes Cabin was built in the early 1960s, Kent estimated.

"It was built by the refuge to support a research project going on in that area," he said. "After the project was completed, we decided to make it available as a public-use cabin."

The cabin was popular, particularly because it was the most road-accessible cabin in the refuge.

"This cabin was a popular destination for visitors, especially in winter by snowshoers and skiers," Kent said in a press release about the fire.

It has not yet been decided whether the cabin will be rebuilt, and if so, where. Kent said the cabin had a history of vandalism, so the location will be studied to see if a safer spot can be found.

The refuge is working on a cabin management plan and the destruction of the cabin will be included in that. Kent said he hopes the plan will be competed by Oct. 1. A decision on whether the cabin will be rebuilt is not expected until then.

In the meantime, Kent asks anyone who was in the vicinity of the cabin from June 1 to 9 to provide whatever information they can to the refuge.

"If they've got any information or happened to see a vehicle parked at that gate or something, we'd certainly be interested," he said.

Refuge headquarters can be contacted at 262-7021.

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