On a day when much of the nation was conducting solemn ceremonies in remembrance of the many who died Sept. 11, 2001, folks in the Funny River community paused in commemoration of that day's events and at the same time celebrated the completion of their new fire station.
Lying outside Central Emergency Services' fire protection area, the community of Funny River has not had a fire department of its own. It is within the CES emergency medical service district and does receive EMS protection.
Thursday, however, Funny River Emergency Services Inc. board president Byron Bondurant surprised the crowd of nearly 200 gathered for the dedication ceremony by announcing the approval of a federal grant request for $250,000 for a new fire truck.
"Now, instead of just showing up with an ambulance and watching a house burn to the ground, we'll be able to do something," he said.
The fledgling volunteer fire department currently has an old fire engine donated after it was retired from service at the Tesoro Refinery in Nikiski, a brush truck and an ambulance on loan from CES.
On the flip side of his good-news, bad-news announcement, though, Bondurant said the new facility will not be fully operational until next spring or early summer.
Speaking for the FRES board, Bondurant said, "We believe we have the backing and will have a real and functioning fire and emergency disaster recovery facility.
"I want to say how hard the people of FRES have worked. We're proud of the new building," he said.
The dedication ceremony began outside the beige, steel, four-bay firehouse as a H-130 U.S. Air Force transport plane performed a ceremonial flyover at precisely 2 p.m.
The CES Explorer Scouts from Soldotna then raised the American flag near the front corner of the new building and lowered the flag to half-staff in honor of the firefighters who died trying to rescue people from the World Trade Center and Pentagon terrorist attacks two years ago.
The U.S. Air Force Band of the Pacific played the national anthem, followed by an American Legion honor guard rifle salute to fallen public servants.
During the ceremony inside the firehouse, attended by Sen. Tom Wagoner, Kenai Peninsula Bor-ough Mayor Dale Bagley, Kenai Mayor John Williams and Sol-dotna Mayor Dave Carey, FRES Auxiliary co-chairs Betty Bon-durant and Mary Pierce, presented a homemade quilt to the volunteers to be displayed in the new fire station.
Over the objection of Byron Bondurant, Rose Marie Galloway, secretary of the FRES board, gave him an engraved plaque for his "dedication and hours of service" in organizing the building effort.
The new building, built on two 2 1/2-acre lots, consists of four 20-foot by 80-foot truck bays, one of which will be used for kitchen, training and office facilities. One lot was donated by former resident Doreen Coleman and the other was purchased from her by the FRES organization.
Coleman, who now lives in Arbor, Manitoba, Canada, was on hand to cut a ceremonial ribbon allowing emergency equipment to be backed into its new building.
In his invocation, George Rakos, minister at the Funny River Community Church, asked the gathering to pause for a moment to reflect on the events of 2001 on the East Coast and called upon God to watch over all who entered and served in the new building at Mile 17 of Funny River Road.
Bondurant said the Funny River volunteer fire department has seven trained medics and 12 firefighters who respond to a community of 1,000 that swells to 3,000 in the summer.
"We have much to do," Bondurant said. "This is just the end of the beginning.
"We have a slogan 'failure is not an option.' We will not fail," he said.
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