The Cordova Volunteer Fire Department received over $200,000 in grant funding during 2019. This money brought the department updated training programs and new equipment, including a pair of tsunami sirens.
The department has also requested a grant to fund an active shooter response training event. This event, which would take place in 2021, would include 20 participants from across Alaska. The department has provided active shooter training for Cordova schools for six years.
The grant request was announced by Fire and Police Chief Mike Hicks at the Saturday, Feb. 8 Cordova Volunteer Fire Department Annual Banquet hosted at the Powder House bar and grill. The department has diversified members’ skills with workshops addressing everything from bomb disposal to containing ammonia leaks, Hicks said.
“In today’s world, we do more than just put out fires,” Hicks said. “When someone calls 911, they expect that one simple phone call will handle all their needs… Today’s firefighter must train to respond to fires of all types, and… earthquakes, floods, medical emergencies, terrorist attacks, active shooter events and any other type of response that comes along. As each year passes, the public relies on us more and more for emergency services to respond to more and more complex emergencies.”
The banquet was also used to recognize high-achieving department members, many of whom spend 12 hours on call at a time. On-call fire officers and emergency medical services staff performed over 33,000 hours of work in 2019, Hicks said.
Five-year awards were presented to firefighter and medic Mark Meredith and to Lt. Stephen Phillips. Medic Katherine Mead was selected for the Kent Thelen Award, recognizing outstanding volunteers. However, Mead declined the award and passed it to medic Kara Johnson in recognition of what Mead described as Johnson’s exceptional community-mindedness.
No recipient was announced for the Red Devil Award, a tongue-in-cheek accolade for the year’s most remarkable or amusing blunder.
Deputy Fire Chief Dick Groff addressed the banquet, emphasizing the importance of volunteerism but saying that the department had fallen short in preparing trained and experienced leaders during recent years.
“Volunteerism… is a huge portion of what makes America so great,” Groff said. “The volunteer fire department is a great American tradition. I am proud to be part of that tradition… I feel we have hit a bump in the road recently. However, I know this department will get over the bump and become better for it.”
Hicks announced plans to retire as police chief May 1. Officer Nate Taylor is expected to be Hicks’s replacement.
“He would be a good fit, rather than hiring somebody from the outside,” Hicks said.