A Capital City Fire/Rescue crew transports a cruise ship passenger off the Radiences of the Seas downtown on Tuesday, August 14, 2018. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

A Capital City Fire/Rescue crew transports a cruise ship passenger off the Radiences of the Seas downtown on Tuesday, August 14, 2018. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Fire department gets funding for another ambulance crew

Chief expects department to be able to fill positions before October

Starting in October, Capital City Fire/Rescue will be able to have an extra ambulance staffed around the clock.

The City and Borough of Juneau Assembly unanimously approved funding for six additional employees, allowing CCFR to keep an additional ambulance staffed for 24 hours a day. The city will allocate $361,000 out of its savings to fund the positions, according to the ordinance, and the money is expected to be ready by Oct. 1.

Multiple firefighters were on hand, including International Association of Firefighters (IAFF) Local 4303 President Travis Wolfe. Wolfe was quoted in a press release in July urging the Assembly to provide funding to staff an ambulance 24 hours a day instead of 12 hours a day. At Monday’s meeting, he expressed his gratitude to the Assembly members for increasing their commitment.

“I think this ordinance is going to get us that first step we absolutely need,” Wolfe said, “and that’s getting that ambulance on the road 24 hours a day.”

Originally, city staff prepared to allocate $350,000 to staff an ambulance for 12 hours per day, but after hearing from the department and discussing it among themselves, the Assembly members agreed to open up their wallet a little bit more. The estimated cost ended up not being too much more, as Deputy City Manager Mila Cosgrove said at an Aug. 8 Assembly Finance Committee meeting.

CCFR Chief Rich Etheridge said after Monday’s meeting that he expects to be able to fill the new positions by Oct. 1. The department already staffs an extra ambulance during the summer months to assist with the increased number of calls due to heavy cruise ship traffic. Etheridge said he thinks some of those seasonal employees will be interested in year-round employment. He also said there are a few other temporary employees who might want to become permanent employees, and two other people have expressed interest in becoming emergency medical technicians (EMTs).

The new hires will start out at the lowest level — EMT1 — Etheridge said, which keeps the cost fairly low for the city.

“We start them out at the EMT1 level and try to keep them there for the first year because they have a lot of stuff to learn,” Etheridge said. “We cover every emergency that doesn’t require a police officer. They have to be proficient in driving, medical, fire, hazmat, rescue. It’s a myriad of things they have to be responsible for.”

The issue of increasing the department’s staffing has been brought up at Assembly meetings for a while, but the issue got jump-started this summer when Missouri research firm Fitch & Associates completed an in-depth study of the department and revealed its findings to the Assembly. Though the firm’s suggestion was for the Assembly to fund an ambulance for 12 hours per day, their findings began a conversation that led to the Assembly funding an ambulance for 24 hours.

According to the study, emergency calls in Juneau have increased from 3,486 in 2010 to 5,077 in 2017. The majority of those calls, nearly 76 percent, were for emergency medical services, while 18 percent were for fire-related incidents.

Emergency calls come in all different forms, retired U.S. Forest Service Naturalist Laurie Craig said at Monday’s meeting. She referred to the massive photo of the Mendenhall Glacier that’s on the wall behind the Assembly members and recounted the dire scenarios that have played out near the glacier.

“I look out at this scene behind you,” Craig said. “A man almost died over there, but these guys saved his life just before he died. We’ve had heart attacks, we’ve had broken hips, we’ve had so many things happen in view of this amazing place. We have trained staff where I worked, but yet, when I would hear the sirens come roaring, I always felt better because I knew professionals and heroes were going to take care of the people who were about to die in one way or another or who needed medical help.”


• Contact reporter Alex McCarthy at 523-2271 or amccarthy@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @akmccarthy.


More in Home

Police and other emergency officials treat Steven Kissack after he was shot on Front Street on Monday afternoon. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Steven Kissack, homeless resident known for canine companion Juno, killed in police confrontation downtown

Kissack shot repeatedly after coming at officers with a knife on Front Street, officials say

(Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire file photo)
Two people arrested at Juneau residence after receiving package with $65,700 of suspected illegal drugs

JPD: Drug investigators intercepted package, then delivered it after inspecting contents.

Residents of Strasbaugh Apartments on Gastineau Avenue and others in the neighborhood wait outside a sealed-off area Sunday morning after a landslide triggered by heavy rain hit the building. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Landslide triggered by heavy rain damages apartment building on Gastineau Avenue

Officials close street as multiple mudslides reported; up to 4” more rain forecast by Monday night.

Shelley McNurney (right) and Tami Hesseltine examine a muticolor storage shelf in the gym of the former Floyd Dryden Middle School on Saturday, where surplus items from the school were being sold to residents and given away to nonprofit entities. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
No more pencils, no more bookshelves: Floyd Dryden works to clear out surplus items large and small

Furniture, microscopes, pianos among gymful of items being given away or sold by shut-down school.

Former President Donald Trump is surrounded by Secret Service agents at a campaign rally in Butler, Pa, on Saturday. Trump was rushed off stage at rally after sounds like shots; the former president was escorted into his motorcade at his rally in Butler, Pa., a rural town about an hour north of Pittsburgh. (Doug Mills/The New York Times)
Trump rally shooting investigated as assassination attempt; gunman identified

One rally attendee and the shooter dead, two other spectators critically injured.

Looking like a gray turtle, an automated mower cuts grass in front of Thunder Mountain Middle School with boxes stacked in a classroom window beyond. (Laurie Craig / Juneau Empire)
Random adventures of robo-mowers…now performing again this summer at Juneau’s schools

Four pillow-sized bots resembling turtles with tiny razor-sharp blades provide class for the grass.

Disney Williams (right) orders coffee from Lorelai Bingham from the Flying Squirrel coffee stand at Juneau International Airport on Thursday. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
New coffee stand at airport stirs up heated dispute about having proper authorization to operate

Fans of Flying Squirrel Espresso praise location, hours; officials say FAA violations could be costly.

Nano Brooks and Emily Mesch file for candidacy on Friday at the City and Borough of Juneau Municipal Clerk’s office in City Hall. (Jasz Garrett / Juneau Empire)
City and Borough of Juneau regular municipal election candidate filing period opens

So far, most vie for Assembly District 2 seat — mayor, Board of Education, and District 1 also open.

Killah Priest performs at the Juneau Arts and Culture Center in December 2019. (Photo courtesy of Lance Mitchell)
Killah Priest sets new record with Alaskan artists on ‘Killah Borealis’

Wu-Tang Clan rapper seeks to lift Alaskan voices and culture in his return performance to Juneau

Most Read