Volunteers revive Chickaloon Fire Department

Published: Nov. 13, 2020 at 2:32 PM AKST
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CHICKALOON, Alaska (KTUU) -People in Chickaloon are working to revive the community’s volunteer fire department.

Over the past year, there’s been a resurgence in getting volunteers trained for an emergency.

“We have members ranging from their 20s to their 80s. They all help,” said board secretary Kalee Bowen.

Now they have a group of about 19 who went through the state’s rural basic firefighting training course.

“We’ve learned in our training how quickly fire can take over, so having something in the community where we can respond and actually do something and help is a big deal,” Bowen said.

Eric Feige initially started the fire department in the early 2000s. Volunteers said interest fizzled out and the department went dormant.

Bowen said it could take neighboring departments up to an hour to respond to their area so it’s important to have resources to fight fires in their own back yard.

That’s one reason Chickaloon’s current community council president, Jim Ramsey, wanted to resurrect the department.

After several years out of service, the station’s firefighting trucks and equipment are finally getting some tender, loving care.

“Every single one of these hoses is hundreds and hundreds of feet, had to come out of the truck and be tested one by one to check for leaks,” Bowen said.

She said some of the hoses still had the brass fittings on them, which means they were decades old.

The nearly-antique nozzles are now sidelined on a shelf, but Fire Chief Wesley Daniels said the rest of the equipment is still in pretty good shape.

“We had to go through and change the batteries on all the trucks, and we’re in the process of replacing the tires on this truck,” Daniels said.

He said the short-term goal is to get all of their equipment up and running. Their engine and water tankers are from the 1980s. Some of their firefighting gear dated back to the ’60s.

Bowen posted photos and videos of the crew’s training on their Facebook page. She said fire departments around Alaska and the country donated gear to make sure their firefighters were properly outfitted.

The department’s next goal is to replace some aging apparatuses and acquire some brush fighting equipment.

“As old as this equipment and everything we have is, it’s functional and it gets the job done. It’s not perfect, it requires a lot of work and a lot of love but it’s what keeps our community safe and it’s what we have to work with,” she said.

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