KETCHIKAN (AP) -- The Metlakatla Fire Department announced the arrival of a brand-new ambulance Sunday night by driving it through the community with sirens blaring and lights flashing.
Assistant Chief Desmond King said Monday that many people in the community 15 miles south of Ketchikan stood outside and waved at the ambulance, fresh off the ferry from Bellingham.
''It was a huge Christmas present to our whole community,'' King said.
Metlakatla's new ambulance is one of seven arriving in Southeast communities. All were paid for in part through a $500,000 federal Rural Development grant.
Thorne Bay, Wrangell, Hoonah and Kake also are to receive ambulances on state ferries this week, according to the USDA Rural Development office in Palmer.
Yakutat and Gustavus are to receive ambulances by barge later this month.
Thor Christianson, resource manager of the Southeast Region EMS Council, said each community was in great need of new equipment. Even if the towns already had an ambulance, he said, the old vehicles were in bad shape.
The ambulance in Thorne Bay was shooting exhaust into the patient compartment. That mid-1970s rig was in such bad shape, emergency medical technicians were never sure they would get a patient to the clinic, Christianson said.
The USDA grant paid for about 75 percent of the ambulances and gear. The communities involved, the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services and the Anchorage-based Rasmuson Foundation pitched in for the remainder of the approximately $780,000 price tag.
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