WASILLA — Firefighters in Wasilla had a busy weekend battling structure fires. Between Saturday night and Sunday afternoon, crews from the West Lakes Fire Department and Central Fire Department battled three separate house fires, rescuing nearly a dozen people from their burning homes.
West Lakes responded to a fire near Pittman Road on Saturday night to rescue one person trapped. A second fire on Knik-Goose Bay Road that was reported in an attic was able to be contained to the attic and a four-plex building with 10 people inside caught fire early Sunday morning.
“Within two to three minutes of the initial call they still had people trapped and they had to put a ladder at the back window to help them get out and then the fire was in the entrance of the four-plex so they had to extinguish it quickly and then go in and assist the other people out. It was such thick dark smoke that the people couldn’t see to get out on their own so the firefighters got in there and was able to do a quick attack and get them out and there was no injuries,” said Mat-Su Borough Department of Emergency Services Director Ken Barkley.
Barkley praised the response of firefighters from West Lakes and Central FD and noted the improvement of response times due to strategic staffing of fire departments throughout the borough.
“It definitely makes a difference. All of them are professional whether they’re full time or on call, they have the same skills, same training, same certifications, the only difference is when we do duty shifts or we have people manning the stations, that’s where we can make a difference and that’s the goal that we’re working towards,” said Barkley.
Barkley said that some occupants of the four-plex that caught fire Sunday morning were examined for smoke inhalation. Barkley also said that the borough training facility on Knik-Goose Bay has helped standardize training for responses including rescue.
“We get actual live training. We can recreate these conditions in the simulator fire training center that we have now and what it does is it gives them real life experience. Most firefighters unfortunately only get experience and training in the real thing so we’re able to practice that,” said Barkley. The one thing we haven’t done in years past is commercial structures and that’s what that’s allowing us to do and then the Assembly approved us to build a different faciitly next to that one and it will be designed for commercial structure training so it’s going to be huge for helping people getting out and firefighter safety as well.”
During the month of February, Mat-Su Borough EMS responded to 745 calls for service area wide. Central had 404, Lakes had 163, Palmer had 143, Willow had 3 and Sunshine had 32. For the month of February, MSB Fire and Rescue responded to 261 calls total with 156 from Central, 48 from West Lakes, 21 from Willow, 17 from Butte, nine from Talkeetna, five from Sutton and four from Caswell with one Water Rescue call.