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Two Rivers community works on setting up its own fire department

Two Rivers fire meeting.jpg
Dan Bross
FNSB Mayor Bryce Ward talks with Two Rivers/Pleasant Valley residents trying to start a fire department, at a community meeting Tuesday, June 28, 2022.

Two Rivers/Pleasant Valley residents are working for their own fire and emergency medical service after a string of arson attacks last summer.

Two Rivers/ Pleasant Valley residents are working to provide locally- based fire and emergency medical service for their community 20 miles east of Fairbanks. The effort began last summer when a string of arson attacks underscored the need for fire service. Fairbanks North Star Borough Mayor Bryce Ward met with residents last night to talk about how to advance the effort.

"Really it's looking at, what is the cost associated with providing the service to the community? And then what is the community willing to pay?" he said.

Mayor Ward explained that the state constitution requires that communities first look at annexing into an existing fire service area, which taxes residents to cover costs, but he said the Two Rivers community it's likely too small to generate enough tax revenue, to pay for extending services to it.

"So talking with the folks that are the commissions in charge, they're not inclined to because the tax value is so low,” he said.

Another option is for the community of about a thousand people to form its own service area and tax themselves, or to charge a subscription fee for service. Having fire service lowers insurance premiums, but area resident, Josh Church, cautioned those at the meeting that overall residents costs will increase.

"You're gonna be paying for this service one way or the other. So it's not an option of, do we get this free thing where they're in our community and super cheap, or maybe we'll just make the borough pay for it? No."

Dan Bross

No matter what model Two Rivers pursues to pay for emergency services, local volunteers will be involved in providing them. A citizens group organized to do that is awaiting borough approval, so it can be certified by the state, a situation that Two Rivers resident, Don Fleming expressed frustration with.

"We're community. We've done this by ourselves. We didn't ask your help. Why do we need to ask your permission?" he said.

"We're gonna be a basic department to fit our community's needs," said Michelle Ethan.

Ethan is president of the Pleasant Valley -Two Rivers Fire Association, which has organized and trained a group of volunteers, accumulated donated response vehicles and equipment, but is bogged down working through bureaucratic challenges with the borough.

“And the unfortunate part is you, I think, Mayor Ward found tonight is you came into a community of people who basically tried to service themselves, you know, went out and got trained. Have 15 people, have four EMT-2s, have a bunch of equipment, have a response plan are ready to go. And then it's like, hold up, we got some steps," she said.

Ethan says the association wants to start by getting okay to provide EMS while it works through the more complicated fire response side of the issue.