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Coast Guard Seeking to Jury Rig Downed Alaska Communications System

September 24, 1985

KODIAK, Alaska (AP) _ The Coast Guard today sought ways to rig a temporary Alaska communications system to replace its long distance search-and-rescue network knocked out by fire.

″We’re making certain kinds of progress. We’re still getting things up on the drawing board, figuring out ways to cover the area,″ said Coast Guard spokesman Glenn Rosenholm in Juneau.

He warned sailors plying Alaska’s often treacherous waters to take precautions to make up for the loss of the communications system.

Much of the system could be down for weeks, the Coast Guard said.

The fire started shortly before 3 a.m. Monday, then raged through the Kodiak Communications Station, officials at the station said.

Systems knocked out were the agency’s satellite-assisted tracking, VHF-FM radio communications, an automatic message transfer system, and a federally operated telephone system, said Rosenholm.

All that remains of the system are radio communications within 15 miles of Coast Guard stations scattered along the Alaska coast.

Mariners will have to rely on their own radios for relaying emergency messages. The Coast Guard said a ship in trouble could send a message to other ships nearby, which then could relay the message down the line until it gets to the nearest Coast Guard station.

″Just the delay in messages going from one ship to another will take a long time, and that will be very dangerous for mariners out there,″ said Ryosenholm.

All of Alaska west of Juneau was affected by the outage, he said.

Radioman Keith Slaney said he first noticed the fire when he heard two popping sounds in the station’s telephone-teletype shop.

″I was in the bathroom when it happened. By the time I got out of the bathroom, the hallway was already filled with smoke.

″By the time I got out of the building, the power died and I could see the flames in the shop. The fire was so hot that I could see the flames breaking the panes out of the windows.″

Fred Squires, station commander, estimated damage to be $300,000 to $400,000.

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