Crews have a history of volunteering

CVFD still going strong at age 59


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Trucks wait for a call inside the Chugiak Volunteer Fire Department’s Gilmore Station. Built in 1968, the station was named for Cliff Gilmore, who has been serving on the volunteer force since 1974. The department, which was founded in 1952, receives about 800 calls a year, according to spokesman Jeff Hartley.

STAR PHOTO BY MIKE NESPER

For the past 59 years, the Chugiak Volunteer Fire Department has been serving the community. Today, the department has roughly 80 members — all state certified emergency medical technicians, paramedics and firefighters — and just two paid staff positions, according to spokesman Jeff Hartley, who’s been with CVFD since 1984.

Its fleet contains four tanker trucks, five pumpers, two heavy rescue trucks, three ambulances, four brush trucks and other miscellaneous vehicles such as snowmachines and command vehicles, Hartley said.

The department receives about 800 calls a year on average, Hartley said. He estimated 80 percent of those are medical in nature.

The department provided free ambulance service until eight years ago, when the Anchorage Fire Department, the contract administrator for emergency medial service in the Chugiak area, forced CVFD to begin charging for rides.

CVFD has provided emergency medical service for AFD in the Chugiak Fire Service Area since an area-wide EMS was established in Anchorage in 1971.

CVFD has five stations, all of which are named after people. Here’s a look at each station:

Station 31: Named for Max Latimer

Max Latimer was the first fire chief and co-founder of the CVFD. The station now serves as the department’s headquarters, Hartley said.

Latimer and other founders started the department in 1952 through community donations, he said.

Station 32: Named for Cliff Gilmore

Cliff Gilmore has been with the CVFD since 1974 and still serves today, Hartley said. Gilmore served as chief, assistant chief, mechanic and is now a senior captain, he said.

Built in 1968, Station 32 added two stalls to its original two the same year Gilmore first joined the department, Hartley said.

The station houses the department’s oldest vehicles — a 1988 pumper and 1981 pickup used for snow removal and sand distribution, he said.

Station 33: Named for Linda Hill

Linda Hill was an emergency medical technician for CVFD and was traveling to a paramedic training class when she was killed in a car accident in the mid-1970s, Hartley said.

“She would have been the very first paramedic in the CVFD,” he said. “It was very tragic that that happened.”

Station 34: Named for Art and Til Wallace

Art and Til Wallace were both former chiefs whose family homesteaded in Chugiak in the 1950s, Hartley said.

“They were very, very instrumental in starting the department,” he said.

Hartley said the station was built in 1977.

Station 35: Named for Bill Lowe Bill Lowe served on the CVFD board of supervisors for two decades, Hartley said. He was killed in a car accident on the Old Glenn Highway.

A Chugiak resident since the 1960s, Lowe helped secure funds and equipment for CVFD, Hartley said.

“He was very, very instrumental in getting us state grants,” he said.

Station 35 is the largest of the five, Hartley said.

CVFD also has a junior program, which Hartley started about 15 years ago. Made up of mostly Chugiak High students, the program requires participants maintain a 2.0 grade point average, Hartley said. It can count as an elective credit, he said.

About 15 are currently in the program, Hartley said.

“We train them only at the basic level,” he said.

Junior program members can receive additional training and respond to calls as full members after they turn 18, Hartley said.

Junior members attend monthly meetings and can assist with cleanup after fires have been extinguished, Hartley said. They do not respond to emergencies, he said.

Several members in the junior program have gone on to join the Anchorage Fire Department, Hartley said. Many others join the CVFD, he said.

“They are our future members,” Hartley said. “It’s great. It turned out to help us a lot.”

The CVFD also serves outside of its Fire Service Area.

Hartley said the department assists Alaska State Troopers and State Parks Rangers with search and rescue operations around Eklutna Lake.

For the past decade, CVFD has also been helping the Division of Forestry fight fires around the state, he said.

“State forestry calls us every summer,” Hartley said. “We’re proud of that.”

CVFD personnel have traveled as far south as Homer and north to Tok, Hartley said.

“We’re pretty active,” he said.

Contact Mike Nesper at 830-6632 or mike.nesper@alaskastar.com

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