Two Rivers Fire Service Area faces election to dissolve
FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - Since its creation by a community vote in November 2022, the Pleasant Valley Two Rivers Fire Service Area has been the subject of controversy.
Now it faces an election on Tuesday, November 21, where residents of the area will decide whether to dissolve the fire service area.
Meanwhile, local non-profit organization Pleasant Valley/Two Rivers Fire Association has been working to prepare the community for its implementation. Mark Riemenschneider, Chief of Operations for the non-profit, said, “The community deserves fire and life safety. They deserve to be treated like everyone else in the borough and have that safety net.”
The organization was formed in 2021. “When we went through the arsonist out here, it did spark a lot of people that wanted a fire department out here,” he explained.
The non-profit is positioning itself to bid on a contract for the Fire Service Area when it’s made available to the public. According to Riemenschneider, “We’ve acquired equipment as far as our two engines and tender and also our ambulance. Also the equipment we’ve received from other fire departments and also have bought on ourselves.”
27 volunteers have received fire and EMT training. A barn to house the station’s vehicles could be on the way, if the service survives Tuesday’s election.
However, those opposed to the fire service say it isn’t practical in an area like Two Rivers. Community Member Ginger McKee argues, “There are so many roads that are little more than goat trails, that you’re not getting a thousand gallon water truck up.”
Bill Robinson, Member of the Fire Service Area Commission, agreed, saying, “It’s not going to work. It’s not going to save houses.”
However, Riemenschneider said with funding and innovation, problems like impassable roads and water supply issues can be overcome. “Every fire service that started had to start somewhere.”
Meanwhile, the community has already seen additional taxes this summer because of the new fire service area. “Why go to all the trouble of taxing us for something that simply will not work?” McKee asked.
Both sides agree that the decision belongs to the community, with Riemenschneider saying, “It’s ultimately up to the voters.”
Robinson encourages residents in the community to vote. “You’ve got to have a say and get more than just a handful of people out there, because this is going to affect everybody.”
If residents vote to dissolve the fire service area, there may still be a path forward for fire service in the community. According to Riemenschneider, this could come in the form of a subscription service, where residents can opt in, if the borough approves. “We’re not going anywhere,” he said.
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