It only cost $1 to buy a fire truck for Ouzinkie (AK), but it took months of searching before the chance to spend that dollar.
Travis Sheppard is chief of the department that serves the small town’s 178 people. He took over the position in February and was quickly saddled with a big problem when Ouzinkie’s 30-year-old fire truck blew its engine during a maintenance check.
Project Code Red trailers are the only form of fire defense in many Alaska villages, and there are currently 138 trailers distributed throughout the state, Alaska State Fire Marshal Kelly Nicolello said.
The trailers each store 600 gallons of firefighting foam and firefighting equipment, but it typically isn’t enough to save a home, only keep the flames from spreading further.
Sheppard wasn’t satisfied with Ouzinkie’s Project Code Red trailer, so he sought help from anyone who would listen — he called area departments, sent emails to people in the state and even reached out to the Western Fire Chiefs Association, a group that works to support and develop fire chiefs in the 10 western states.
People told him to apply for the federal Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program and hope the money came through. He applied for the grant over the summer, but is still waiting to hear a response.
In early October, Sheppard received a call he had been desperately hoping for 00 someone had found him a truck. Ouzinkie Native Corporation CEO Greg Strong told him that the Municipality of Anchorage might have a truck available.
On Oct. 19, Sheppard and Ouzinkie fire volunteer Pete Muller Sr. traveled to Anchorage to check out their new vehicle. The two spent a weekend training and running tests on it with the Anchorage Fire Department. On Sunday, they began the long drive from Anchorage to Homer where they boarded the ferry to Ouzinkie.
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