On a beautiful Saturday afternoon the first responders of Kenai and Nikiski Fire Departments parked their big red ladder truck at the corner of the Spur Highway and Main St. and proceeded play in traffic for their annual Fill the Boot campaign to benefit the Muscular Dystrophy Assoc. (MDA) It use to be a traditional Labor Day weekend event held in conjunction with MDA telethon, but according to Capt. John Harris of the KFD they changed that a few years ago, “Three years ago we started doing it in the post dividend and holiday month of October because it’s fire safety month so we moved it to October and have found that there’s more of a giving spirit. It’s kind of our own thing in Kenai,” he explained. Ten off duty firefighters and one from Nikiski participated in the 6 hour Fill the Boot campaign that raised over $9,000 or $9,187.10 to be exact. “It was all on their off time and everyone volunteered to be here and participate on their own, and the people of our community as always proved to be very generous. Some folks who didn’t catch the red light actually turned around and came back so they could money in the boot,” said Harris. Lisa Quesnel of Nikiski was one of the people who did a turn-a-round and told the Dispatch, “I just couldn’t catch a red light and this is a way not only to help MDA but to say thank you to these guys for being there for us 24/7 whenever we need them. And of course in Nikiski we all know Omar, he’s our ‘Homeboy.”
Melissa Kompkoff had another reason for helping the guys fill the boot, “I lost my 19 year old son to Duchenne’s Muscular Dystrophy almost 6 years ago. The way the Muscular Dystrophy Association takes care of its kids is nothing short of phenomenal. Again my most heartfelt thanks for what they are doing. Those fire fighters are really something else. Sometimes they would come visit my son in Anchorage from the multiple anchorage fire houses. Special people! I was involved with MDA in Anchorage for 16 years. We lost my first husband to suicide and when I remarried we had everyone bring in monetary donations, instead of gifts, for MDA that we hand delivered to the office in Anchorage. We did so in my son’s name and his friend whom he had lost a few months earlier. They really become like family. Things they set up for the kids to do at camp and some of the counselors they get are a dream come true. The medical clinics they get together for our kids, to be able to see ALL their specialists at one time, is such a godsend. Our service dog, Snickers, (now gone too) was the first one to attend summer camp at Birchwood for MDA. Thanks to everyone who helped fill the boot,” said Kompkoff.
Capt. Harris also took the occasion and fire prevention month to say, “We are stressing exit drills in the home. To practice not only fire drills like we have at the schools, but ask the kids to take that information home and apply it to their homes, to formulate a plan and practice it,” he said. Regarding wood stove maintenance Harris said, “Yearly inspections are key and all of the fire departments have a chimney brush for those with fireplaces and wood stoves that they can borrow to sweep their chimneys. All you have to do is call any of our administrative offices and we loan them out free of charge and we’ll even show you how to use it.”