A screenshot taken on Sept. 3, 2019, from a video on the AK Diamond J Ranch website shows the interior of a building on the ranch east of Homer, Alaska.

A screenshot taken on Sept. 3, 2019, from a video on the AK Diamond J Ranch website shows the interior of a building on the ranch east of Homer, Alaska.

State Fire Marshal closes Homer area wedding venue buildings

The Alaska State Fire Marshal’s office last week closed two buildings at a Homer area wedding venue.

In a press release issued on Aug. 29, the State Fire Marshal said it had issued closure notices for two buildings at AK Diamond J Ranch Wedding Venue on Perkins Road off Jones Road near Mile 18 East End Road. Alaska State Troopers on Aug. 27 also issued a summons to the venue owner, Billy Jones, 40, alleging he violated Alaska state law that requires a plan review of structures regulated by the State Division of Fire and Life Safety.

In early March, deputy fire marshals investigated AK Diamond J Ranch Wedding Venue. In the press release, the fire marshal’s office alleged at least two buildings on the property had been built or use of the buildings had changed without a State Fire Marshal Plan Review. Alaska State Trooper Sgt. Daniel Cox wrote in the complaint for the case that on March 6 officials issued a “stop work/do not occupy” to Jones. On March 7, Jones notified the State Fire Marshal’s Office that he would use the buildings only for personal use, Cox wrote.

In the press release, the State Fire Marshal’s Office wrote that a follow-up investigation on Aug. 27 revealed the buildings were still being used as part of the wedding venue. Troopers then posted the buildings “Closed. Do not enter. Unsafe to occupy.”

In an email, Bill and Stephanie Jones, the owners of AK Diamond J Ranch, sent this statement:

“Bill and Stephanie Jones and AK Diamond J Ranch want to sincerely thank everyone for their support and apologize for any concern or stress that this situation has caused anyone. We assure our neighbors, friends and guests that we are not violating any regulations, but remain committed to doing whatever it takes to resolve this issue as quickly as possible with the state. We are not shut down and we are not out of business. Instead, the state is simply preventing us from using two of the accessory structures on our land. We are certain that both structures are solid and safe, one of which has been in use for 20 years. Our goal is to work with the state to quickly resolve its concerns so all our guests may enjoy a private, peaceful weekend with close friends and family. My family has enjoyed this amazing property for generations and we are honored when someone requests to host their private event here. We will continue complying with the law in every regard and correct any oversights — should any exist — as quickly as possible. Once again we thank you all for your support, and appreciate your patience.”

Jeff Morton, a deputy fire marshal and supervisor of the Life Safety Inspection Bureau, confirmed that AK Diamond J Ranch remained open for events as long as the two closed buildings are not used. Citing the ongoing judicial process, Morton declined to identify or describe the closed buildings.

In an email, Jones said one building is a pole barn that is completely open on three sides and has no floor and the other is a single-story, one-room 1,100-square-foot barn with multiple exits that they have been using for more than 20 years.

Although AK Diamond J Ranch is in an unincorporated area of the Kenai Peninsula Borough, under state law commercial buildings used for assemblies like weddings require State Fire Marshal’s Office approval depending on the kind and level of use. The office looks at things like exits, construction and emergency lighting, Morton said. The office also wants to make sure that if something happens to the building like a fire or earthquake the building will be able to maintain itself so people can get to safety.

“We’re reviewing the building in totality, but also making sure it has the life saving equipment,” Morton said on Tuesday. “You and I would be able to walk in without any skills or knowledge and hopefully be able to exit the building if something happened.”

Morton said the State Fire Marshal’s Office isn’t being capricious in its investigations or enforcement.

“Our office is designed around compliance,” he said. “… We don’t have a quota. Other than the concept of building safety, that’s it.”

Morton said he could not comment on the AK Diamond J Ranch case while it goes through the judicial process. He also declined to say how the incident came to the attention of the State Fire Marshal’s Office.

In the press release, State Fire Marshal Rich Boothby noted several U.S. tragedies involving buildings with assembly occupancy such as the 2016 Ghost Ship fire in Oakland, California, where 36 people died, or the 2003 Station Night Club fire in Warwick, Rhode Island, with 100 deaths.

“We take action because across the nation people are dying in occupancies that are not regularly inspected or reviewed for the basic protections required by the building and fire codes,” Boothby said in the release.

Jones has a court appearance and arraignment in the Homer Court on Sept. 17.

Reach Michael Armstrong at marmstrong@homernews.com.

A screenshot taken on Sept. 3, 2019, from a video on the AK Diamond J Ranch website shows the ranch east of Homer, Alaska.

A screenshot taken on Sept. 3, 2019, from a video on the AK Diamond J Ranch website shows the ranch east of Homer, Alaska.

More in News

Coast Guardsmen and state employees load the Together Tree bound for the Alaska Governor’s Mansion on a truck on Nov. 29, 2021 after the Coast Guard Cutter Elderberry transported the tree from Wrangell. (USCG photo / Petty Officer 2nd Class Lexie Preston)
Governor’s mansion tree arrives in Juneau

No weather or floating lines could stay these Coast Guardsmen about their task.

The Kenai Community Library health section is seen on Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2021. The Kenai City Council voted during its Oct. 20 meeting to postpone the legislation approving grant funds after members of the community raised concerns about what books would be purchased with the money, as well as the agency awarding the grant. The council will reconsider the legislation on Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2021. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai council to consider library grant again

The council earlier voted to postpone the legislation after concerns were raised about what books would be purchased.

EPA logo
Alaska Native group to receive EPA funds for clean water projects

The agency is handing out $4.3 million to participating tribal organizations nationwide.

fund
Study: PFD increases spending on kids among low-income families

New study looks at PFD spending by parents

Image via the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation
Nikiski soil treatment facility moves ahead

The facility, located at 52520 Kenai Spur Highway, has drawn ire from community residents.

Commercial fishing and other boats are moored in the Homer Harbor in this file photo. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)
Seawatch: Bycatch becomes hot issue

Dunleavy forms bycatch task force.

Rep. Chris Kurka, R-Wasilla, leaves the chambers of the Alaska House of Representatives on Friday, March 19, 2021, after an hour of delays concerning the wording on his mask. On Monday, Kurka announced he was running for governor in 2022. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)
Wasilla rep announces gubernatorial bid

Kurka said he was motivated to run by a sense of betrayal from Dunleavy.

The Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson star is Illuminated on the side of Mount Gordon Lyon on Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2019, just east of Anchorage, Alaska, in observation of the 18th anniversary of the terrorist attacks. A crew from the base went to light the 300-foot wide holiday star, but found that only half of the star’s 350 or so lights were working, the Anchorage Daily News reported. Airmen from the 773rd Civil Engineer Squadron Electrical Shop haven’t been able to figure out what was wrong and repair the lights, but they plan to work through the week, if necessary, base spokesperson Erin Eaton said. (Bill Roth/Anchorage Daily News via AP)
Avalanche delays holiday tradition in Alaska’s largest city

ANCHORAGE — A holiday tradition in Alaska’s largest city for more than… Continue reading

AP Photo/Gregory Bull,File
In this Saturday, Jan. 18, 2020, photo, George Chakuchin, left, and Mick Chakuchin look out over the Bering Sea near Toksook Bay, Alaska. A federal grant will allow an extensive trail system to connect all four communities on Nelson Island, just off Alaska’s western coast. The $12 million grant will pay to take the trail the last link, from Toksook Bay, which received the federal money, to the community of Mertarvik, the new site for the village of Newtok. The village is moving because of erosion.
Federal grant will connect all 4 Nelson Island communities

BETHEL — A federal grant will allow an extensive trail system to… Continue reading

Most Read