Alaska town needs a new ambulance

By Greg Lincoln

Bethel, Alaska desperately needs a new ambulance. Currently the fleet consists of two aged ambulances that medics at the Fire Department use to answer calls – when they are not being serviced for parts or breakdowns. The newer of the two has been in service for 13 years and the backup for 17 years.

Getting to these calls can make the difference between life and death for the community of Bethel who rely on medics when an emergency occurs. Bethel’s population is over 6,000 and includes many visitors from the surrounding villages on any given day of the year.

The situation is dire, says Fire Chief William Howell.

“As the sole provider of ambulance services in Bethel, a bush town in remote western Alaska, our patients rely solely on us to provide medical care and transport. Unlike many communities linked by roads, Bethel is isolated,” wrote Chief Howell on the crowdfunding site Generosity. “When an ambulance breaks-down we receive no back up from other Fire or EMS services. With our newest ambulance 13-years-old and the only back up ambulance 17-years-old we are continuously fighting breakdowns and delays in responding to life threatening emergencies.”

Local fundraising efforts have also begun which have raised $88,000 with a goal of $255,000.

On July 23rd the Bethel Fire Department hosted a tacos and burritos fundraiser for the new ambulance, named Medic 6, with the help of Casa – a local restaurant. Casa helped kickstart the fundraiser by donating all the proceeds sold from their food truck. The Bethel Volunteer Emergency Services Association along with Chief Howell express their many thanks to the Bethel community and to Casa who helped raise $2392.

At the Fire department during the fundraiser, community members learned about the increasing ambulance call volume. Sometimes the calls come in two at a time, sometimes 3. Usually two ambulances are ready to respond in an emergency but when an ambulance is out of service medics use the Fire Department’s F250 pick up truck as a back-up vehicle.

On August 6 the Bethel Fire Department hosted a BBQ with pork ribs, potato salad, coleslaw, and beans. Folks praised the delicious food while showing their support.

“Local government and grants alone have not been able to solely fund this project. Through hard work over the last few months we’ve raised nearly $88,000, but more funds are needed,” said Chief Howell on Generosity. “Your support of this project will directly impact the lives of the thousands of people treated and transported by our service and help us continue our mission of saving lives and helping the sick and injured. As a registered 501 C-3 non-profit, donations to this project are tax deductible.”

Chief Howell and the Bethel Volunteer Emergency Services Association, a registered 501 C-3 non-profit, are reaching out to ask for your support for their online fundraiser: “Our Mission: Save Lives. Support Medic 6.” The donation site can be accessed by going to https://www.generosity.com/community-fundraising/our-mission-save-lives-support-medic-6.

“There are a few ways to help,” said Chief Howell. “Donate – Everything helps. Even small donations have a big impact. Post to Facebook – The more people who hear about us, the more likely we are to meet our target. Share with your community – Call your friends, tell your co-workers, make an announcement at your organization’s event to spread the word. Generosity has zero platform fees, so your donation goes farther to help us reach our goal. Thank you!”

All donations to the ambulance fundraiser are tax deductible. You can also stop by the Fire station and make a donation to the BVESA Ambulance Fundraiser.

“Thank you for supporting us in our times of need, and as always, we are proud to serve the Citizens of Bethel,” said Chief Howell.