Central Emergency Services paramedic/engineer Brian Heath assembles a bed in the department's new station in Kasilof earlier this week. The station will have an open house on Saturday.
Photo by M. Scott Moon
Central Emergency Services will give the public a glimpse into their new Kasilof Station and celebrate Cohoe's certification as a Firewise community at an open house Saturday from 1 to 4 p.m.
"The station will be open for the community to come in," Fire Chief Chris Mokracek said. "We'll have a fire prevention and smoke building trailer there for the kids to go through and have various displays set up there."
In the wake of the Caribou Hills wildfire, Mokracek said fire safety will play a big role in this Saturday's official grand opening of the new station, allowing visitors to not only meet the fire personnel, but also to learn about defensible space and find out what it takes to be an official Firewise community.
"We're in the community to have firefighters there to answer any questions they may have," Mokracek said.
Above, Central Emergency Services paramedic/engineer Brian Heath assembles a bed in the department's new station in Kasilof earlier this week. The station will have an open house on Saturday. Below, the new station is across the street from Tustumena Elementary School.
Photo by M. Scott Moon
Mokracek said a $2.5 million bond funded the building of the Kasilof station as well as the remodeling of CES's Funny River Road station. In addition to addressing the fire threat posed by spruce bark beetle kill in the area, the Kasilof station will provide the community with a quicker response to medical emergencies.
"In the past Kasilof residents had to wait for an ambulance 20 to 25 minutes on a good day," Mokracek said. "Now advanced medical care is close to them so they'll see an immediate response."
There will be at least one trained firefighter and one paramedic on duty 24 hours a day, Mokracek said, with more help just down the road at CES's Kalifornsky Beach Road station. Also, if a wildland fire occurred, the station would be used to house additional personnel and equipment.
"Right now we have one engine, a water tanker and an ambulance down there," Mokracek said.
Roberta Wilfong, program manager for the Spruce Bark Beetle Mitigation Program, said Cohoe is the first nationally-recognized Firewise community in the state of Alaska. There is only one other recognized Firewise community in the state, Horseshoe Lake near Big Lake.
"The work (Cohoe) did really brought to individuals the things that need to be done before a wildland fire strikes," Wilfong said.
This can include removing hazardous fuel from around your buildings and within a neighborhood, making sure your attic is screened and ensuring a fire truck can safely enter or exit your property.
"When a huge fire happens, the fire department can be everywhere at once. They can protect homes where they know they can go in and out safely," she said.
Mokracek said Firewise means creating a defensible space of 30 feet or more around your house and said most of the cabins that withstood the Caribou Hills blaze did so because the dead fuel and trees were cleared away from the structure.
"If we have trees and shrubs and woodpiles and everything stacked up against the house, it makes it that one real threat," he said. "That structure will be harder for us to defend."
In addition to providing Kasilof residents a faster response in an emergency, the new fire station will also give Cohoe's Firewise committee a place to hold meetings.
"There are signs around the area that says it'll be a Firewise community," Mokracek said. "It kind of goes hand in hand with the fire station being there."
Cohoe's Firewise committee meets the first Monday of every month at the new Kasilof Station at 7 p.m. For more information on becoming Firewise, visit the organization's Web site at firewise.org.
Jessica Cejnar can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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