Juneau, Alaska (KINY) Capitol City firemen appealed to the Juneau City and Borough Assembly Monday to add staff in the wake of a fatal fire on Seward Street that claimed two lives, just one day earlier.
One by one, firemen appealed to the lawmakers to consider an increase in the fire budget to help them out. Firemen stated that only four of them were the first responders at the fire at 526 Seward Street early Sunday. Later volunteers and crews from stations located in the valley showed up to provide mutual aid.
Two brothers, both from Mexico, “Wilfrido” Luis Román Olivarría Mora, 34, and Adrian de Jesus Olivarría Mora, 21, died in that blaze. Three others were injured and four firemen were taken to the hospital for heat exhaustion and smoke inhalation.
Firefighter Andrew Wheeler said the call volume in Juneau continues to rise while the number of firemen has not, "We need more staff. We will run 5,300 calls this year. Our staffing hasn't changed since we started the Fire Union. I think the Assembly understands and we look forward to watching how they react."
Firefighter Brady Fink said he felt the Assembly will consider the proposal. "They are listening to us. We might have caught them off guard because we weren't on the agenda. Our staffing level was brought to the forefront on this last fire with how many people showed up to help between volunteers and on duty staff. It was a struggle at time. The firemen were pretty whipped, pretty tired. I think almost all the firemen went through six air pack bottles to combat the blaze, which is a lot for one individual."
President of the Juneau Firefighters Union 4303 Travis Wolfe said they need the extra personnel, "The goal for us is to bring on a third ALS (Advanced Life Support) ambulance, and an additional nine people. The ambulance would take six additional people, two per shift. The minimum staffing on a fire engine should be four firemen. We are having trouble meeting the needs and expectations of the community in medical calls. We end up with times where are ambulances are tied up with multiple stacked calls. We end up having to prioritize calls. In this community we should be able to do better than that."
The firefighters said they were disappointed that four of their colleagues had to be sent to the hospital due to a lack of manpower.
The investigation into the fire continues. Fire Marshal Dan Yager reported the origin of the fire was a second floor balcony. Fire Chief Rich Etheridge said it will take a couple of weeks before the actual cause of the fire is determined. The cause is not considered suspicious.