Though there is never a good time to have a fire, this week would be about the most opportune time possible, as the central Kenai Peninsula is flooded with about 200 firefighters and fire chiefs from around the state.
The Kenai Peninsula chapters of the Alaska Fire Chiefs and Firefighters associations are hosting the annual statewide training conference. The conference runs from today through Saturday and includes a wide variety of training opportunities, demonstrations and vendors, a firefighter competition and a banquet for participants.
Opening ceremonies are Wednesday at 8 a.m. at Kenai Central High School and will include a keynote address by the state deputy commissioner of public safety, Ted Bach-man. However, preconference training begins today.
The annual event is held in a different location every year and draws participants from across the state. The last time it was in this area was 1998. The planning required to host the conference started well in advance. The planning committee, made up of representatives from Kenai, Nikiski and Homer fire departments, as well as Central Emergency Services, began holding monthly meetings a year ago.
"To me it's like child birth -- the closer to the due date, the more often you meet," said Lori Holleman, administrative assistant for the Kenai Fire Department. "For the last month and a half we met on a weekly basis just trying to make sure everything was lined up. It's a lot of fun, but it's a lot of work because you have to stay organized."
Though it takes a lot of effort to host the conference, the local chapters that do it get the benefit of being able to attend the multitude of training opportunities.
This year's training includes extensive live-fire, emergency medical, aircraft fire rescue, automobile crash extrication, firefighter safety and arson investigation and litigation training.
Courses and demonstrations will take place at a variety of locations. The Alaska Regional Aircraft Fire Training Center on Marathon Road will house the majority of classes and others will be held at CES facilities and in Nikiski.
On Wednesday and Thursday, conference attendants will have a chance to see some of the latest and greatest merchandise, equipment and supplies available in their field as vendors from all over the state, the Lower 48 and Canada will set up shop at the Kenai Municipal Airport Operations Facility to hawk their wares.
Though the majority of the conference events are not open to the public, anyone interested in watching firefighters in action without the distraction of a real emergency situation can come to the firefighter competition at noon Saturday at the airport operations facility. Firefighters will compete in a make-and-break relay of fire hoses, fire extinguisher use, donning self-contained breathing apparatus (air tanks) and ladder raises.
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