Central Emergency Services (CES) fire fighters know how to respond to emergency situations with incredible flexibility and resourcefulness. Thanks to a $4.4 million bond measure approved by voters in 2016, the CES fleet of fire trucks and ambulances now have new specially designed equipment to respond even quicker.
CES Chief Roy Browning introduced the new apparatus to the community May 5, during a dedication ceremony, pancake breakfast, and open house at the CES station in Soldotna.
“One of the things we wanted to do, when we had the chance with the bond measure approved, was to sit back, evaluate our mission and look at the apparatus in our ambulance design and our fire trucks to maximize the funding we had available, so we could take one truck and replace two trucks with it,” said Chief Browning in an interview with the Dispatch. “We’ve done that here.”
The three new fire trucks were outfitted with equipment for ice rescues, swift water rescues, rope rescues, and vehicle extrication. Each truck also has room for some type of emergency medical response, such as a cardiac machine or space for a paramedic and paramedic medicines. Browning explained this multipurpose design means that a fire truck can arrive at an emergency and start stabilizing a patient while waiting for an ambulance to respond.
On the other side, the new ambulances were outfitted with SCVA breathing air packs and compartments for fire bunker gear, allowing them to provide an initial fire response.
Ryan Kapp, a member of the CES Board of Directors, says it’s crucial for first responders in Alaska to have flexibility when answering widespread calls.
“It’s really great to know that the group here has the state-of-the-art equipment and is able to respond to multiple calls at once, which is real important on those tough winter days,” said Kapp.
In a recent week, CES responded to 18 calls, including two fires and six medical calls which were received within a two-hour period. According to Kapp this is not an unusual occurrence for CES personnel.
“If anyone gets a chance, stop down and ask the crews if you can have a look inside the cabs and see some of the capabilities the new equipment. It’s real impressive,” he said.
To honor the important role the new apparatus will play in the greater Soldotna area, Chief Browning and his crew recreated a 200-year-old tradition called a “pushback ceremony.”
“It dates back to mid-eighteen hundreds when all the fire apparatus were steam engines that were very, very heavy and were pulled by horses,” explained Chief Browning. “When they would get new deliveries of the steam engine that would be attached to a wagon, it would take a lot of manpower to actually push the vehicle back into the stalls, and then the horses would be able to be hitched up to them. So it’s traditionally called a pushback ceremony.”
Borough Mayor Pierce and State Senator Peter Micciche joined in the mock push back. The 2016 bond measure was approved by 57 percent of voters in the CES service area, which covers the city of Soldotna, Sterling, Kasilof, Funny River, Kalifornsky Beach, and surrounding areas.