Volunteers respond to emergency needs

Cordova Volunteer Fire Department’s annual awards banquet honors local men and women who’ve devoted their lives to saving others

CVFD Capt. Paul Trumblee, firefighters Jeff Rice, Mark Meredith, Stephen Phillips, Lt. James Thorne, and EMT Katherine Mead receive their 200 Club awards during the annual Cordova Volunteer Fire Department banquet Feb. 11. Photo courtesy Cordova Volunteer Fire Department/For The Cordova Times

Three members of the Cordova Volunteer Fire Department have received commendations of excellence for helping to save the life of a teenager suffering from anaphylactic shock after eating a brownie containing peanut butter.

The 17-year-old girl, who is allergic to peanuts, went to the local clinic, whose staff then called for an ambulance to transport her to the Cordova Community Medical Center.

The ambulance crew, Captain Paul Trumblee, Lieutenant James Thorne, and Emergency Medical Technician 2 Emily Stolarcyk, rushed the unconscious patient to the medical center, and worked with staff there to restore the girl’s breathing. The girl was transported to medical facilities in Anchorage as a precaution, and returned to Cordova a few days later, having made a full recovery.

“Their actions reflect the highest credit upon themselves and the Cordova Volunteer Fire Department,” said Fire Chief Michael Hicks, who presented the citations during CVFD’s annual awards banquet at Powder House.

The incident was just one of 204 emergency fire, rescue and medical calls responded to in 2016 by CVFD firefighters and medics, over a period of 7,613 hours, mostly as volunteers. They were also on call for 40,000 service hours during that period, Hicks said.

Other calls responded to in 2016 included 23 automated alarms from canneries, the hospital and homeowners; two vehicle fires; a welding trailer fire; five cooking-related fires; three minor hazmat incidents; and one report of a man in the water. The last incident, it turned out involved a guy who had had an argument with his girlfriend and was hiding under a dock.

CVFD crews also responded to four motor vehicle injury accidents, one of them fatal, and acall to help locate a missing child, who was found before they were out of the door.

Interagency cooperation and teamwork between CVFD and the Alaska State Troopers, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Coast Guard, Department of Homeland Security, Native Village of Eyak, local schools, business and canneries have made a significant difference in training exercises the department held in 2016.

“In all the years that I’ve been doing this, I have never seen a better working relationship with our partners at the federal, state, and local levels. Their teamwork, cooperation, and willingness to work together has allowed our organizations’ abilities to grow and expand like it never has before,” Hicks said.

CVFD members meet weekly on Thursday evenings for training sessions, plus other training events as they become available.

CVFD held a 200-hour state Firefighter I academy attended by five firefighters, and a 40-hour Emergency Medical Technician course, and participated in an oil spill drill with the Coast Guard, state and local agencies in cooperation with Alyeska pipeline representatives. They also took part in ALICE (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate) training with local schools and community organizations to better-prepare Cordovans on how to survive an active shooter event, and received temporary morgue training to be used in the event of a large-scale disaster.

CVFD raised  $2,679 for the 2×2 Cancer Walk by members of the department shaving their heads, with those donations to help anyone in Cordova undergoing cancer treatment, and 22 CVFD members attended an Urban Search and Rescue class that was provided by the Alaska State Troopers and the Alaska Mountain Rescue Group.

CVFD helped organize local events for the biennial, statewide Alaska Shield exercise program to prepare local, state, federal, and private organizations for natural and manmade threats.

The 2016 theme was cyber-terrorism. “We evacuated our high school. We tested law enforcement response, reunification procedures, morgue procedures, fire and EMS response, and a communications drill,” Hicks said.

EMS Captain Joanie Behrends, is Cordova’s Alaska Shield representative.

At the awards ceremony, firefighters Mark Meredith, Laurel Troudt, Jeff Rice and Stephen Phillips received their state of Alaska Firefighter I certifications. Capt. Paul Trumblee, firefighters Jeff Rice, Mark Meredith, Stephen Phillips, Lt. James Thorne, and EMT Katherine Mead received 200 Club awards, which were established to recognize firefighters and medics who exceed the 140-hour mark.

Tenure awards were presented to Rob Mattson, for 25 years of service; Dana Smyke, 25 years; Carolyn Roesbery, 15 years; Jason Perkins, 10 years; Cathy Long, five years; Kara Johnson, five-years, and Cody Handley, five years.

EMT Katherine Mead received the Kent Thelen award, named for of a long time volunteer who served with CVFD from 1999 until his passing in 2009 from brain cancer. The award goes to a CVFD member who does volunteer work within the community outside the department; and demonstrates selfless commitment.

CVFD is divided into companies and each company can work independently or as a group with the same authority and responsibility of the chief officers of this department, Hicks said.

CVFD senior staff members are Rob Mattson, deputy fire chief, Richard Groff, safety officer; Kara Johnson, secretary; Katherine Meade, treasurer; and Sue Farzan, department historian. Engine Company 2 is responsible for fire suppression and is commanded by Capt. Paul Trumblee, and includes Jerry LeMaster, engineer; and firefighters Dustin Solberg, Lloyd Belgarde, Cathy Long, Laurel Troudt, Les Bourdess, Cody Howard, and Eric Long.

Engine Company 3 is responsible for fire suppression and is commanded by Capt. Jason Perkins, and includes Mike Galambush, engineer; and firefighters Sam Christie, Kasey Kinsman, Jeff Rice, Tyler Troudt, Chatham Warga and Mark Heidbrink.

Rescue Company 1 is responsible for ventilation, interior search and rescue, rapid intervention, vehicle extrication and heavy rescue, and hazardous materials response, and is commanded by Capt. Dana Smyke and Lieutenant Micah Renfeldt, and includes firefighters Cody Handley, Mark Meredith, Stephen Phillips, and James Thorne.

EMS Medic 7 and 8 are responsible for all emergency medical service functions including treatment and mass casualty response, and are commanded by Capt. Joan Behrends, and Lt. James Thorne. Medical response personnel include Capt. Behrends, Jim Fritch, Kara Johnson, Katherine Mead, Carolyn Roesbery, Bob Behrends, Rheo Reoroma, Andrea Whitcomb, Logan Beyer, and Emily Stolarcyk.

Hicks thanked all the CVFD members and their families, Powder House, Cordova City Manager Alan Lanning, Alaska State Troopers, U.S. Forest Service’s officers, CVFD physician sponsor Dr. Gary Vanwinkle, The Cordova Times, and J.R. and Leslie Lewis of KLAM radio for their support.

“The local media has done a lot for us over the years. Anytime we need to get the word out in a hurry, we can always count on them, often at no cost, because they too enjoy serving the community. They’re key elements of our community emergency disaster team,” he said.

Previous articleSnow city
Next articleThrough With Chew Week is Feb. 19-25
Cinthia Gibbens-Stimson is a staff writer and photographer for The Cordova Times. She has been writing in one form or another for 30-plus years and has had a longstanding relationship with The Cordova Times starting in 1989. She's been an Alaskan since 1976 and first moved to Cordova in 1978. She's lived in various West Texas towns; in Denver, Colorado; in McGrath, Cordova, Galena, Kodiak, Wasilla, Anchorage and Fairbanks, Alaska and in Bangalore, India. She has two children and three grandchildren. She can be reached at cgibbens-stimson@thecordovatimes.com or follow her on Instagram @alaskatoindia.