Unalaska ambulance inherited by Chignik

One of Unalaska’s former ambulances will soon be taking a ferry ride to the Alaskan Peninsula town of Chignik. Chignik is an incorporated city in the Lake and Peninsula Borough, home to about 60 permanent residents and hundreds of seasonal workers.

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Deputy Chief Jennifer Shockley announced Wednesday that Chignik public safety officials submitted the winning bid to inherit the surplus ambulance. The city no longer needs it after the Unalaska Department of Public Safety got a brand new ambulance earlier this year.

Instead of selling or scrapping the old one, Unalaska’s city council approved a give-away program.

Chignik City Clerk/Treasurer Becky Boettcher said in an email Thursday it felt like winning the lottery when she learned the ambulance would be joining the Chignik Public Safety Department.

She said the very day she and another staff member were lamenting the state of Chignik’s current ambulance – nicknamed the “Ghostbusters Van” – Chignik received a letter in the mail from Unalaska.

Former fire chief Zac Schasteen said that when the city released the old one for donation, he sent out a letter to other Aleutian and Alaskan coastal communities.

“Saying hey, we have this ambulance here,” Schasteen said, “If you need it and you meet the criteria, then we’ll give it to you if you’ll pay for the shipping off Unalaska.”

The criteria included being an incorporated municipality with the state of Alaska; community need; and having sufficient storage and maintenance capability. Priority was given to a city in the Aleutians or Southwest Alaska, like Chignik.

Chignik officials say the donation comes as a relief and will help the city’s currently effort to improve public health and safety services. Boettner said a new clinic recently opened its doors and construction is underway on a long-anticipated new municipal dock there.

Earlier this year, Schasteen gave KUCB a test ride and tour of both the old and new ambulances.

The outgoing diesel ambulance was built in 1999 by Freightliner. It lacks an air ride suspension, which made it more of a challenge for EMTs to lift and unload gurney-strapped patients.

The city’s 2012 and 2015 ambulances have several improved features the 1999 did not, Schasteen said. Improvements tailored to Unalaska’s needs.

“For a long time, the 1999 ambulance – again the suspension is so rough – we really use that as a back-up ambulance,” Schasteen said. “So we really got away from that as being a primary ambulance. Now that we have two functional ambulances that we can have an equal level of patient care on and configured similarly, what we’re going to go back to is a multi-station response.”

The 2012 ambulance is now housed at Station 2, the Amaknak fire station, and the newest one at the DPS building in Unalaska.

Shockley says that volunteers and paid DPS staff reviewed applications requesting the surplus ambulance from King Cove, Bristol Bay Borough and Chignik. The ambulance will be shipped to Chignik in the coming weeks.

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