- Associated Press - Friday, March 18, 2016

KENAI, Alaska (AP) - A Russian Orthodox church in Kenai is looking to install a new fire-suppressing system to protect the religious art and historical artifacts that reside next to dozens of candles.

Holy Assumption of the Virgin Mary Russian Orthodox Church is raising money to install a fire suppression system, which is designed as an alternative to sprinklers for buildings that contain water-sensitive items such as art, according to The Peninsula Clarion (http://bit.ly/1RqDQy6).

Currently, the 121-year-old church uses smoke alarms and two fire extinguishers for fire suppression.

According to the preservation nonprofit Russian Orthodox Sacred Sites in Alaska, Holy Assumption contains icons created in Russia in the early 1700s, icons by Alaska Native priests’ and journals dating from 1844.

The church has raised close to $10,000 for the new system in the past two weeks. The church needs $60,000 to finish installing the fire suppressor.

Dorothy Gray is a member of the Holy Assumption church and treasurer of ROSSIA, the preservation nonprofit, said the three-year fire suppression effort is an extension of a 2008 refurbishment. She said when she first came to Kenai in 1978 the church looked abandoned, but has since been restored.

“People realized that there were some exquisite oil paintings and icons inside the church,” Gray said. “And I think people also realized - it sounds sort of silly - that it was a Christian church. Some people thought Russian Orthodoxy must be some kind of weird religion.”

Father Thomas Andrew said the mist system will be fully installed by summer if fundraising is successful, but either way the church is once again an attraction.

“We’ve had Russians, people from Kuwait, Africa, the European countries, Canada, South America, everywhere,” he said. “This is one of their destinations, to come see this church.”

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Information from: (Kenai, Alaska) Peninsula Clarion, http://www.peninsulaclarion.com

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