SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


Please vote 'Yes' on City of Ketchikan Proposition 2 on October 5th.
By Chief Jim Hill


September 28, 2010
Tuesday AM

Editor Sitnews and Your Many Readers,

Your 'Yes' vote - on October 5th - on "Prop 2" authorizes construction of a new downtown fire station. Prop 2 is on the ballot for very simple, yet critically important reasons. Essentially, the 'old' fire station ---built in 1943--- is too small, worn out, used up, and simply cannot meet the mission which the Ketchikan Fire Department (KFD) is required to perform.

In 1943, the KFD's mission was straightforward: "if a fire starts, put it out!" Accordingly, the building was designed to house a few firemen and relatively small number of fire trucks and related equipment.

However, today KFD is required to be a full-service fire agency. Of course, we still 'put out' fires, but our mission has been greatly expanded to include:

Fire Suppression: We work aggressively to prevent fires and we are very proud of the fact that our fire hall -unlike most- is not decorated with recent photos of local businesses going up in smoke!

We serve on behalf of the State Fire Marshal's office, inspecting businesses, reviewing plans, and strictly enforcing fire codes.

We provide emergency medical services (EMS). Our paramedics and EMT's provide emergency response 24 hours-a-day, 365 days-a-year. In fact, 90% of our call volume involves Emergency Medical Services.
We also are responsible for Hazardous Material Response, Shipboard Firefighting, Dive Rescue, Technical Rescue, and Advanced Life Support.

Our personnel are required to be certified, trained, and equipped in 'all of the above' as well as in Disaster Preparedness, incident management and, of course, structural firefighting. The associated training and planning includes anticipation of mass-immunization protocols, evacuation, establishing alternate care centers, and dealing with cruise ship disasters.

Coordinating these efforts regularly includes working and training with Public Health, ADEC, the School District, Law Enforcement, the Borough, private sector agencies, the Coast Guard, Customs and Boarder Protection, the FBI, TSA, and our many other response partners.

We are required to acquire, maintain, store, and be trained on all the equipment associated with all of the above---in a building constructed in 1943.

In 1943 our citizens -and the designers of the building-simply could not anticipate or construct a fire station for the year 2010. Nor did they.

Not only is the old station completely inadequate for today's mission, equipment, and personnel, it also suffers from serious and significant aging issues including: asbestos, electrical, OSHA violations, ADA violations, workers comp claims, structural /sagging beam issues, a leaking roof, leaking windows, and very high operational costs. As well, new engines and ambulances must be custom-ordered and modified at great additional expense to fit in the undersized garage. Shockingly, our main ladder truck - -imperative for fighting a downtown fire---does not fit in the garage and is stored some distance from 'the hall'.

The old station is 'bad news' by every measure.

However, the new station is 'good news' by every measure - including financing. A 'Yes' vote on City Proposition #2 ensures we'll receive $5 million in State funding. And for the portion of the costs we finance, we will be taking advantage of historic low interest rates. There has never been a better moment in time to build a new station. After years of discussion, debate, study and planning, this is the moment in time when a new station is finally, absolutely necessary.

In 1943 our community did 'the right thing' by building a fire station that would best serve and protect the community. We should be proud of their commitment and willingness to invest in our future. Today it's our responsibility to do the same. Let's make sure 70 years from now, the next generation is proud of our willingness to invest in the their future.

The City website contains comprehensive information on Proposition 2 and the new station*. I encourage you to check it out. Also, you can watch an informational video at The video is also broadcasting on KPU Commvision channel 611.

Please vote 'Yes' on City of Ketchikan Proposition 2 on October 5th.

If you have additional questions I'd be happy to hear from you.

I can be reached via email at: or by phone at 225-5940.

Thank you.

Jim Hill
Chief of the Ketchikan Fire Department
Ketchikan, AK


* A recent Sitnews letter expressed concern about the 'modern' design of the new station. Please note the exterior drawings are simply preliminary. We plan to seek public input to ensure the final design results in an "Old Ketchikan" look and feel.

Received September 27, 2010 - Published September 28, 2010



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