Briefs from Svalbardposten for the week of Jan. 30, 2018


Record number of fire alarms; kitchen fires a particular concern
The Longyearbyen Department received a record 187 alarms during 2017, 15 of which were fires or ignitions. Of those, 11 were due to “dry cooking,” which often happens late at night when intoxicated people fall asleep while cooking.  The dry cooking incidents are are really worrisome,” said Fire Chief Jan Olav Sæter. “We have never had so many before. Had it not been for direct alerts we would have had yearly deaths in Longyearbyen due to fires and fire ignitions. It’s not a question of it will go wrong, but when. Direct notification is a technical device that may fail.” The were 155 alarms in 2016 and 157 in 2015. The previous record of 181 was set in 2015.

Owner of 8.1 million kroner of evacuated apartments seeks compensation from city
A property management company is pursuing legal action against Longyearbyen’s city government due to the long-term evacuation of multiple apartments purchased for 8.1. million kroner from the city. Longyearbyen Boligeiendom purchased the properties in the neighborhood known as Lia in 2013, but an avalanche in February of 2017 resulted in Gov. Kjerstin Askholt ordering the evacuation of dozens of homes in areas considered at-risk whenever significant snow was in the mountains (the current order went into effect in late December and the initial one last year ended in June). The company initially sought reimbursement, last May but the city rejected it in November, noting they were in contact the Norway’s Department of Polar Affairs about getting compensation for property owners in the 2018 national budget. Longyearbyen Boligeiendom filed a notice of litigation against the city in December, but city officials argue the evacuation hasn’t altered the housing zone status for the area and the long-term use of the property is not set in stone.

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