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Safe house

Firefighters put special touches on new house

Posted: Sunday, March 11, 2001

The modest house at 369 SoHi Lane has been a popular hangout for the last few months.

Thanks to Central Emergency Services, Habitat for Humanity and many generous community efforts, Theresa Kunnuk and her children, Malachi, Timothy and Naomi Hopper -- 14, 12 and 10, respectively -- now have a home to live in.

The journey that will soon end with the relocation of the Kunnuk family started when Barry Tibbitts, a CES firefighter and paramedic, and his wife were involved in the construction of another Habitat house on Strawberry Road.

Tibbitts said the volunteer work gave him an idea.

 

Over the course of several months, the new home rises on a wooded lot on SoHi Lane in Soldotna.

Photo by M. Scott Moon

He knew CES Fire Chief Len Malmquist was looking for a large project to show the organization's community support. So he called David Bunts, a general contractor and volunteer firefighter, for his thoughts on the idea.

"One day I said 'Hey Dave, what do you think if we were to go to CES, to just our full-time and volunteer people and see if we can get together and just build a fire department Habitat house?'"

Bunts said he liked the idea.

"Firemen have a reputation of tearing things apart, it would be kind of nice to build something," Bunts said.

 

Over the course of several months, the new home rises on a wooded lot on SoHi Lane in Soldotna.

Photo by M. Scott Moon

Tibbitts approached Habitat for Humanity and asked if they were interested in a CES-sponsored home. They said they had never heard of a fire department sponsored house, but they showed an interest and said OK. He then went to CES and received the go-ahead from Malmquist.

"We wanted it to be just CES personnel so we could have our own pride in the project," Tibbitts said.

After having the project approved by all necessary parties, Tibbitts began the process of getting it started.

The first small obstacle was that Habitat did not have available property inside the Soldotna city limits. The location of the house was an important issue.

 

Over the course of several months, the new home rises on a wooded lot on SoHi Lane in Soldotna.

Photo by M. Scott Moon

"We needed it to be in our community, and we needed it to be in our response area," Tibbitts said.

Malmquist stepped in and approached the city of Soldotna and the Kenai Peninsula Borough to see about the donation of a lot. Malmquist and a group of firefighters attended a council meeting to voice their support for the project. The council agreed to donate a lot on SoHi Lane in Soldotna.

The next task for CES was to build the house with the allotted $27,000 from Habitat for Humanity.

"In order to make that happen, we went to a lot of different businesses in the area and asked them to donate different things," Tibbitts said.

After the groundbreaking celebration was held Sept. 10, the work on the home began the next day. Tibbitts said much of the groundwork was donated by Jerry Holly of Speciality Excavating in Soldotna.

"He was a major initial role player," Tibbitts said.

Holly spent six days clearing the lot and tying in all the utilities.

"If we had we not had him volunteering his work and his equipment and doing what he did for us, we would probably have been over budget to begin with," Tibbitts said.

Soldotna City Council member Jane Stein offered up the idea to involve the area high schools in the project. Soldotna High School students built the shed that sits alongside the house.

"We told them we needed a shed. We gave them the dimensions, and at their shop, they came up with the plan, the design. They built it over there at the school, and they took it over to the house for us," Tibbitts said.

The Skyview students contributed by painting both interior walls -- after they helped lift them -- and the exterior walls.

In all, Tibbitts said, more than 50 people, CES members and the community, contributed their time and effort to building the house. Many volunteers tagged along with their family members.

"It is not just the CES members, but the CES members and their families," he said. "That's what we wanted it to be to begin with."



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