“Morale is through the roof,” Nenana’s Fire Department gets two much needed ambulances

Published: Jul. 5, 2021 at 5:08 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - The city of Nenana, around 50 miles south of Fairbanks, just got two of the newest ambulances in the state. The Nenana Volunteer Fire/EMS Department was able to purchase the vehicles with a State and Federal granted funded by COVID-19 aid money.

Joe Forness is The Chief at the Nenana Volunteer fire and EMS department, and said they were in desperate need of new ambulances. “Before we had our new ambulances, our first-out ambulance was a 2002 and it was well past its serviceability life.”

He said they questioned if the old ambulance was going to run, adding that now they don’t need to worry. “Having these two new ambulances, it’s amazing! It’s an amazing stress relief knowing that I have two functional units that can roll out and not have to worry about mechanical issues.”

In 2018 the city of Nenana stopped funding the department because of financial issues. Ever since, the department has struggled to even operate. Forness is hopeful that this signals a change as they still have many needs.

He said the last time they got a new piece of equipment was in 2008.

However, with the new ambulances, Forness said, “The morale in the department has just gone through the roof. Everybody had the same worry. When we had older equipment everybody’s worried about, ‘is it going to break down on a call?’ which has happened.”

While they still have many needs, the chief says the ambulances where the biggest. “This was our biggest need. We need ambulances. We were at the point where could not roll out on a medical call and not worry that our stuff was going to break down on us.”

Forness said they are still working to outfit one of the ambulances, but both should be operational by the end of the week. The new ambulances also have gurneys that are self loading, meaning that EMS no longer needs to muscle people into the vehicle and risk injuries. They also have better suspension for improved ride comfort for trauma victims.

While the ambulances are a big step, Forness said there is still a long way to go. Just last week the fire chief truck broke down, meaning that Forness now has to respond to any calls driving the speed limit since he has to use his personal vehicle. The department also has other needs like a new fire engine, a new tender and a new building. Forness said the building they are in isn’t big enough for modern equipment. He also said that they need new personal protective equipment and air tanks as theirs expired in 2015 and can no longer be used.

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