Wedding present causes wildfire in Alaska

Building a cabin as a wedding present was the reason of a wildfire that has destroyed 88 Alaska homes and cabins.

Vicki Steik, whose daughter was soon to be married, said sparks ignited dry grass when the groom's parents were grinding a shovel to start groundwork.

"It's just so sad," Steik said. "I have a lot of friends whose cabins have been destroyed, and I know how much those cabins meant to them. It just breaks my heart."

The fire started June 19, and fire officials said Wednesday the blaze was 61 percent contained. More than 500 firefighters from around the country were fighting it.

The groom's parents tried to in vain to stop the flames, then found themselves cut off from a road and had to be rescued by helicopter, Alaska Division of Forestry wildfire investigator Sharon Roesch said.

"They tried to slap it out with the shovel and the shirts off their backs," Roesch said.

Roesch was still determining whether anyone will be charged. If convicted of violating state fire statutes, the offending couple could be made to compensate the state based on their ability to pay, she said.

Rob Coreson lost his uninsured cabin in the fire - an estimated loss of $100,000 (74,415 EUR) - and said his friends with property in the area are not in a very forgiving mood. Most property in the area was uninsurable because of the area's remoteness.

"I think it's neglect," he said.

The wedding will go on, and soon, Steik said.

"We're trying not to let it spoil what should be a very, very happy day for us."