Letter From The Chief

Fire Chief CummingsWelcome to the Fairbanks Fire Department

The first Fire Department in Fairbanks was a volunteer department organized during the summer of 1903 under the direction of Fire Chief Dan Noinan. The department’s equipment consisted of a few buckets, ladders, fire axes and several water holes in the slough, which the Fire Chief was expected to keep open at all times. In 1904 a three-member fire commission was chosen consisting of Dr. Hall, Charles Bean and J.H. Patten. The commission appointed Fred McCarty as Fire Chief of the Volunteer Fire Brigade. The City Council took over the Fire Department in November of 1904, electing J. J. Buckley, a City Patrolman, as its first Fire Chief for which he received an additional sum of $50 per month for services performed as Fire Chief.

The first fire station, built in 1905, was on Second Avenue between Turner and Barnette Street and was later moved to Turner Street between Second and Third Avenue. In the fall of 1905, the Council decided to build a new fire hall on Third Avenue opposite Turner Street. A concrete Fire Station was later built at Fifth and Cushman followed in 1962 by the 656 Seventh Avenue location. The citizens of Fairbanks approved a new Fire Station during the October 2003 City election, to provide a new main station at Eleventh and Cushman Street. The new station will provide much needed support for the more versatile, but larger, heavier vehicles that are used in the fire service today.

In 1905, the Fire Chief was paid $200 per month, with the other two paid Fire Fighters receiving $150 per month. The volunteer members were furnished room and board and received $1 per hour for their attendance at fires. The Department became fully paid in 1907 with J. J. Buckley as Fire Chief over five other Fire Fighters.

From April 1, 1909, through March of 1910, there were 65 alarms entailing a loss of $5,496 in Fairbanks and an additional loss of $15,025 in the Garden Island area. These fires required the laying of 44,150 feet of fire hose that year. The previous year had 59 alarms with a total fire loss of $6,281, which resulted in the laying of 34,500 feet of fire hose.

Today the Fairbanks Fire Department is a fully paid Fire Department with a staff of 41 persons. The workforce is divided into three shifts and work a “24 on, 48 off” schedule. Each shift has a Battalion Chief, three Captains, three Drivers and five Fire Fighters. The Department also has a Deputy Fire Chief, a Deputy Fire Marshal, an Administrative Assistant and a Clerk/Coordinator of the Fairbanks Emergency Planning Committee.

The Department has four fire engines, one 102-foot platform, a 100-foot ladder truck, a medium rescue truck, four ambulances, one incident command van, one rescue boat, one heat trailer, one light trailer, and two water tenders. There are two staffed fire stations and another unstaffed fire station located next to the City-operated Regional Fire Training Center on Thirtieth Avenue.

The Department runs a paramedic level transport ambulance service. Thirteen fire fighters are certified as paramedics with four additional members in paramedic training. All Fairbanks fire fighters are certified emergency medical technicians.

Fairbanks Fire department personnel are trained and certified in emergency cold-water rescue, and hazardous material response at the technician level.

The City of Fairbanks has a protected population served of 22,800 citizens. The temperature in Fairbanks ranges from 90 degrees above zero in the summer to 60 degrees below zero in the winter. The amount of daylight ranges from 21 hours, 49 minutes in the summer (June 21, Summer Solstice) to 3 hours, 42 minutes in the winter (December 22, Winter Solstice). These temperature and daylight extremes can make fire fighting quite a challenge.

The Fairbanks Fire Department’s response area is 13.1 square miles, with an asset valuation of $1,361,917,721, and includes the Chena River, Pioneer Park, the Carlson Center, Fairbanks Memorial Hospital and many other important landmarks. Fairbanks Fire Department provides mutual aid support for 10 surrounding fire departments including Fort Wainwright Army Base and Eielson Air Force Base.

Warren B. Cummings

Fire Chief