Central Mat-Su Fire Department
Current Flag Status
The Central Mat-Su Fire Department (CMSFD) is also known as Mat-Su Borough Emergency Services District 1. CMSFD is the second largest and second busiest fire department in Alaska. The department operates a combination system of full-time and paid-on-call responders. There are two sections within the department, fire and rescue; each with its own funding, membership requirements, and equipment. The department currently has over 125 members which includes full-time, paid-on-call and auxiliary volunteers.
Fire: Fire protection services are provided to the Central Mat-Su Fire Service Area through eight (8) fire station/public safety buildings. The Central Mat-Su Fire Service Area includes the Trunk Road corridor and lands west including the entire City of Wasilla, plus the entire Knik Goose Bay Road area and up to mile six (6) of Point MacKenzie Road.
The Wasilla Fire Service Area No. 1 and Lakes Fire Service Area No. 22 operationally merged in 1986 to form the Central Mat-Su Fire Department. We legally consolidated in 1991 to form the Wasilla-Lakes Fire Service Area No. 130. In 2016 the Fire Service Area was changed to the Central Mat-Su Fire Service Area No. 130.
The Central Mat-Su Fire Department provides fire protection for approximately 150 square miles, which is identified as the Central Mat-Su Fire Service Area Number 130. The area primarily encompasses the core area of the Matanuska-Susitna Borough starting on the east at the intersection of the Parks and Glenn Highway, west on the Parks Highway to Vine Road, north to Mile 7 Wasilla-Fishhook Road and south to Mile 6 Point MacKenzie Road. We protect the entire City of Wasilla. The population of the service area is approximately 59,000, which is approximately 50% of the total population of the borough. The Central Mat-Su Fire Department operates from eight (8) fire stations and each station has assigned officers.
Please see the Central Mat-Su Fire Service Area map to get a complete overview of the area served.
Central MAT-SU Rescue responds to over 450 calls each year. This includes primarily motor vehicle crashes with a variety of other technical and off-road rescue incidents. This represents over ½ of the entire rescue call in the MAT-SU Borough.
Central Rescue consists of the following units:
- Rescue 61
- Rescue 65 Squad 51 (Service company and backup rescue unit)
- Two Yamaha 660 4-Wheelers with trailers
Technical rescue programs consisting of rope, off-road and confined space
Board of Supervisors
Board of SupervisorsUnder MSB Code 5.15, the CMSFD has an appointed board of supervisors to assist in the operation of the service area. The board of supervisors is composed of five persons who are qualified voters residing within the service area, appointed by the mayor and approved by the assembly.
Emergency Services Forms
The Central MAT-SU Fire Department is the combined efforts of the Wasilla Volunteer Fire Department and the Lakes Volunteer Fire Departments. The department was formed through consolidation in order to help both fire departments compliment each other with a high degree of efficiency, effectiveness, and cohesiveness.
Wasilla Volunteer Fire Department
The Wasilla Volunteer Fire Department (WFD) was organized in March of 1960. It was the third fire department in the Mat-Su Valley, the city of Palmer and the Butte area fire departments had been in operation for 3 to 4 years before this. The first fire chief was Jake Wright who worked for the Alaska Railroad in Wasilla.
Our first fire truck was a 1942 Dodge which was obtained from the State Civil Defense and was parked at a local automotive station. Later the first fire station, an old Road Commission equipment storage shed, was rented for one dollar a year. The second fire truck, a 1945 Chevrolet 4 wheel drive, was obtained from Civil Defense about two months later. In 1962 a 1949 Packard ambulance, the "Old Gray Goose", was acquired. It was notorious for not working, and was used for only a few years.
A Civil Defense Siren,the primary way of notifying volunteers of a fire call, was installed on the top of the fire station. This was later moved to the new fire station building and is still operational today and is used on special occasions.
In 1964, the Alaska Railroad loaned the WFD a 1943 International Tanker with a small pump on it. This truck was later on loan to several other fire departments in the borough and is still in service today at Victory Bible Camp.
The Wasilla Fire Service Area was formed as a Borough service area in 1965, shortly after the Mat-Su Borough was created. At that time, the population in the Wasilla Fire Service Area was approximately 350 people and the estimated property valuation was approximately five million dollars. Not even 20 years later, the Wasilla area became one of the fastest growing communities in the nation. The population of the fire service area grew to over 10,000 with an approximate assessed valuation around 374 million dollars by 1983.
In the early days the WFD had minimal revenue and relied heavily on fundraisers and donations, and even held dances in a quonset hut behind the fire station to raise money. When the WFD became part of the Mat Su borough as a service area, tax money was appropriated. This allowed for more equipment availability and a paid fire chief. Jake Wright became the first paid chief in 1965 at $150.00 per month.
The Gray Goose Ambulance developed some "running gear" trouble in late 1967. A volunteer pulled the transmission in 1968 and discovered a tooth missing on the reverse idler gear. The Wasilla Area Development Association acquired a black Buick hearse from an Anchorage mortuary as a backup ambulance. The Gray Goose then developed engine trouble in 1968, and since parts for Packards were very rare, a Chrysler engine was installed. A second ambulance, a 1965 Pontiac that was originally Anchorage’s first ambulance, was then acquired. Wasilla tried to return the hearse to the mortuary, but they didn't want it back.
At this point in time, 1968, many loaner trucks from different government agencies were being used by the fire dept. Also in 1968, Jake Wright suggested to the city of Wasilla that a Wasilla Ambulance Service Area be created as a separate MSB service area from the fire service area. The city board questioned why the MSB was interested in this and since they recently purchased the 1965 Pontiac Ambulance. The city was concerned that what they really needed was help with funding for the Gray Goose. Chief Wright pointed out that the fire service bought the engine for the Gray Goose from MSB funds. This seemed to settle the discontent and in December of 1969, the title to the 1965 Pontiac ambulance was turned over to the borough in trade for upkeep and maintenance of the vehicle.
In 1969 the MSB set up a $50,000 revolving loan fund and the WFD was able to purchase it’s first new piece of fire apparatus. A 1969 Mack was purchased with a 1000 gpm midship pump and a 1000 gallon tank. Chief Wright drove it up to Alaska through the Alaska-Canada Highway. It is still in excellent condition and is in use today as the primary reserve engine for the Central Mat-Su Fire Department. Upon arrival in Wasilla, it was discovered that the truck would not fit in the fire station. The gravel floor had to be dug out in order to house the truck in the fire station.
In August 1974, MSB residents approved a $150,000 bond issue to build a new fire station. Work began on the new fire station at the same location n of the Road Commission storage shed. April of 1975 saw the purchase of six new Scott air packs. Three were purchased through ambulance funds and three from fire department funds. This was the beginning of a steady stream of new and used equipment and apparatus, much of which is still being used today. In February 1976, an International tanker truck with a 2400 gallon capacity was acquired and picked up in Anchorage. This was an old fuel truck that was refurbished with a 120 GPM side mounted pump. It is still in use today as a tanker in another fire service area of the MSB. In 1976, a new International 4x4 Mini-Pumper was purchased with a 300 GPM pump, a 250 gallon water tank, and a 20 gallon foam tank. This truck was later used as Rescue 61 from 1984 through 1996. It was refurbished in 1996 and is now in service as Brush 61 as an initial attack wildland unit. In 1978 a new Ford 3,000 gallon pumper tanker was purchased. The summer of 1976 also saw the purchase and installation of Mobile Radios in the fire trucks and mini pumper. A radio tower was installed on top of the fire hall and the first pagers were distributed to fire personnel. In April of 1977, the WFD received a new 3000 gallon Ford Tanker with a 1250 GPM front mounted pump. This truck was refurbished by Pierce in 1996 and is still used as Tanker 521 at Station 52. By the end of the summer the department also acquired a new FORD 4 X 4 pickup (command vehicle), more radios, 10 more pagers, another air pack, a smoke ejector, and a new K-12 saw. Both apparatus were purchased through the MSB revolving loan fund.
With all this equipment and apparatus the new station was getting a little cramped for space. By the end of 1982, the fire station saw two additions. It was expanded to the size it is today with three large 60 foot long bays and two smaller 30 foot long bays. Chief Wright was a charter member of the Alaska State Fire Chiefs Association and the MAT-SU Fire Chiefs Association. He also served as president of the MAT-SU Fire Chiefs Association from 1981 through 1982. During that time the fire chiefs standardized fire equipment, became an advisory group for equipment purchase and specifications, helped to write up a fire protection plan for MAT-SU Borough, and helped the Borough in prioritizing requests for State grants. They also recommended funding for three new fire stations-one in the Fishhooks area, one at Big Lake and one at Meadow Lakes and for three substations – one at Knik, one at Lazy Mountain and one on the Glenn Highway near Farm Loop Road, all of which were funded. There were several new service areas formed during 1982. The Fishhook Service Area, the Big Lake Service Area, and the Meadow Lakes Service Area. The Wasilla Fire Service Area No. 1 started with 39 square miles and in 1983 it grew to 97 square miles. On April 12, 1983, the Knik area (south of Wasilla) was annexed into the Wasilla Fire Service Area. The estimated area of the new Knik annexation is approximately 50 square miles which doubled the size of the fire service area. Land was donated by the Settlers Bay Subdivision in this area to build a new fire station, now designated as Station 62. The new station wad dedicated on June 27, 1987 and was called the "Cottonwood Public Safety Building” Station 65.The Wasilla Fire Department was well equipped in 1983 with a balanced fleet that is capable of quick response and can bring large amounts of water to a fire. On order was a 100 foot aerial platform that will make it possible to reach any of the higher buildings in Wasilla and reach out over expanses of flat roofs. There was a two to three hour training meeting most Thursdays. The WFD had eight people who were training to be a state certified fire fighter one. In 1960 you were expected to show up to a fire scene and hopefully by accident extinguish the fire. When the WFD first started, no one ever thought about using an air pack. During the winter months, the Volunteers were constantly performing various public services. Activities such as flooding the local ice skating rinks and letting the school children tour the fire station, trucks, and equipment. This helped show the community just how far the fire department had come along in the short time since its organization. In 1983, Chief Wright retired for medical reasons. A nationwide search was performed to fill the position. In 1984, the borough hired Jack Krill as chief of the Wasilla Fire Department. Chief Krill was from Phoenixville, Pennsylvania, where he was the volunteer fire chief and a held a seat on the borough council. Chief Krill was one of the many people involved in spearheading the drive for a Central MAT-SU Fire Department. With his past years in firefighting experience and departmental expertise, he was instrumental in helping develop and implement the combined operations of the Wasilla and Lakes Fire Departments. He brought an “East Coast” appeal to the MSB and gave the MSB fire services a fast track to being progressive. A more comprehensive approach to mutual aid and automatic aid was created along with the initiation of the fire ground command system. By 1985, plans were being set in motion for the Central MAT-SU Fire Department and three more pieces of fire apparatus were purchased. A 1985 Ford 4 X 4 engine with a 1250 GPM pump and a 750 gallon tank, a 1985 Ford Tanker with a 1250 GPM pump and a 2000 gallon tank, and a 1985 Grumman with a 1500 GPM pump and a 750 gallon tank. In 1986, the station was overloaded with equipment. They were awaiting the arrival of a 100 foot ladder truck built by Thibault of Canada and a 1969 International Chemical Truck donated by ARCO Alaska. The new Central MAT-SU fire department station was scheduled to be finished in the summer of 1987. A Quonset hut owned by Tanner & Son on Lucas Road was leased as a temporary measure to store equipment until the new station on the Palmer-Wasilla Highway and Seward Meridian Parkway was finished. This hut was called Station 63 for the time it was in use. The new station wad dedicated on June 27, 1987 and was called the "Cottonwood Public Safety Building” Station 65. The new building served as headquarters for Central MAT-SU fire department, a combined fire department of the Wasilla and Lakes Fire Departments and the Headquarters for the Borough Emergency Medical Services (E.M.S. with offices for the borough E.M.S. coordinator and the E.M.S. trainer located at the facility).
Lakes Volunteer Fire Department
The Lakes Volunteer Fire Department (LFD) has a short history. It was established in 1978 and called Fire Service Area #22. This area was previously known as no mans land between Wasilla and Palmer and unfortunately outside both fire service areas. Lakes was in the process of getting organized and equipped when they had its first fire... ... The fire was extinguished with buckets of snow and water, shovels, and whatever else was available In early 1979, Lakes appointed its first fire chief, Andy Postishek. Chief Postishek was already a captain with the Anchorage Fire Department and now he was going to get the chance to build a fire department from the ground up. Lakes was in the process of getting organized and equipped when they had its first fire. The emergency dispatcher would call Chief Postishek’s home. Chief or his wife would call all the volunteers via telephone or CB radio. The fire was extinguished with buckets of snow and water, shovels, and whatever else was available. Lakes first piece of rolling equipment was acquired from the Division of Forestry. Their second truck was a donated tanker that held 1000 gallons of water. In 1980, Lakes received its first engine, A 1979 Ford Cab-over with a 1000 GPM pump and 750 gallon tank. Prior to receiving the engine, the department acquired a Mini- Pumper with a 250 GPM pump and a 300 gallon tank. Also acquired was a Peterbilt tanker that was converted from a fuel carrier. In the summer of 1980, Lakes became part of the area wide dispatching system. Firefighters were carrying personal pagers and the response times were cut down dramatically. With good apparatus on the road, the fire department was showing the community a "can do" attitude that brought down fire insurance rates for the homeowners. The first fire station, Station 51, was dedicated on December 6, 1980 and the second, Station 52, came shortly after. Station 51 is located at the intersection of the Parks Highway and Trunk road on land leased for one dollar a year for 50 years by Don Breedon who owned the ranch land in the area. In 198 located on Bogard Road near the intersection of Trunk Road. The station needed to be expanded in order to house the new equipment being delivered. Two new 1985 Grumman Pumper Tankers with 1250 GPM pumps and 2000 gallon tanks. These units were in use by early 1986. This brings us to the combined efforts of Lakes and Wasilla Vol. Fire Departments, combining firefighting skills and training to make mutual aid run smoothly and efficiently.
Major Turning Point for MSB Fire Services
There was a major arson fire in 1982 at Iditarod Elementary School in Wasilla, it was quite obvious there was a need for uniformity in fire departments in the Borough. With a vast array and combinations of equipment, hoses, fittings, apparatus, and firefighting technique, a systematic approach to mutual aid was inevitable. The MAT-SU Fire Chief’s Association met with the MSB management to discuss plans for mutual aid. As a result of these meeting, non-areawide funding initiated mutual aid was already being practiced on a lesser scale on smaller fire scenes throughout the borough. It wasn't until there was a major fire of enormous dollar loss to the taxpayers, that the MSB management was convinced mutual aid was the wave of the future. The MAT-SU Fire Chief’s Association met with the MSB management to discuss plans for mutual aid. As a result of these meeting, non-areawide funding initiated giving the fire services the much-needed revenue from a portion of the property taxes. The communications system was developed in 1983 so that all departments can be dispatched on one frequency. This resulted in more efficient fire response and automatic and mutual aid between departments so that more than one department can respond to a fire. Up to this point, 6 different frequencies were used by different fire departments. A common frequency was established as the dispatch channel, the remaining frequencies were aligned to use as fireground tactical channels. Each fire station in the borough was given a number designating the service area. For example, Lakes was given number 5 and their two stations were 51 and 52 with apparatus Engine 51-1, Engine 52-1, Tanker 52-1, etc. Wasilla was given the number 6. Radio designators of personnel and communication protocols were also standardized. Clear text replaced 10 codes and a message protocol, identical to the state troopers, was initiated to communicate from one unit to another.
Merging the Two Departments
In 1985, Lakes Fire Chief Andy Postishek, now retired from the Anchorage Fire Department, took a chief’s job near Kenai, Alaska. Immediately after, Jack Krill was appointed fire chief by the Lakes FSA Board of Supervisors.
Central MAT-SU Fire Department
The Wasilla-Lakes Fire Service Area (FSA) encompasses 160 square miles of area within the core area of the MSB. Fire protection services are provided by the Central MAT-SU Fire Department (CMSFD), the third largest department in the State of Alaska. An active membership ranging from 90 to 100 paid-on-call fire fighting personnel, depending on the seasons and economic conditions. The CMSFD is a volunteer fire department with several paid staff position including the fire chief, three fire service area assistants, two fire code officials, and two station maintenance workers. Legally, the CMSFD is designated as FSA 130 – Wasilla-Lakes. In 1987 two fire departments, the Wasilla Fire Department (FSA Number 1 - Wasilla) and the Lakes Fire Department (FSA Number 22 – Lakes) was combined to form the CMSFD. The functional name was changed to CMSFD, but it is legally known as the Wasilla-Lakes Fire Service Area (WLFSA). The department operates from seven fire station/public safety facilities and protects approximately, 38,000 full time residents. or approximately 48% of the borough population. This number increases by at least 5000 to 6000 during the summer tourist season. The FSA primarily encompasses the core area of the MSB, starting on the east at the intersection of the Parks and Glenn Highway, west on the Parks Highway to Vine Road, north to Mile 7 Wasilla-Fishhook Road and south to Mile 6 Point MacKenzie Road. The Central MAT-SU Fire Department officially began operations on June 1, 1985. The department was formed by combining the Wasilla Volunteer Fire Department and the Lakes Volunteer Fire Department into one operational unit through the adoption of the “Combined Fire Department Operational Plan.”The Central MAT-SU Fire Department officially began operations on June 1, 1985. The department was formed by combining the Wasilla Volunteer Fire Department and the Lakes Volunteer Fire Department into one operational unit through the adoption of the “Combined Fire Department Operational Plan.” The Cottonwood Public Safety building, Station 65, serves as the headquarters and primary training location n for the department. The complement of volunteers participating in the department ranges from 85 to 100 personnel. The participation and membership is dependent on factors such as the economy of the area, local employment opportunities, and seasonal activities (fishing, hunting). The Central MAT-SU Fire Department, since its inception, has had the distinction of becoming one of the most effective, respected, and well known fire departments in the State of Alaska. These characteristics are evident with the active recruitment of personnel from our department by other fire departments and agencies in Alaska, requests for assistance and participation on committees for the development of training programs by the State of Alaska, Division of Fire Service Training and the participation on academic advisory committees for the Matanuska-Susitna College and the University of Alaska for the development of two and four year fire related degree programs, and requests for volunteer personnel to develop and conduct training programs for fire departments in the Borough and throughout the State of Alaska. The philosophies of the Central MAT-SU Fire Department are collectively represented in the mission statement of the department – “To provide maximum fire protection in an effective and efficient manner in light of fire risks and available resources.” Achieving and maintaining the objectives of the mission statement requires the effective utilization of the volunteer personnel. The entire existence of the department is dependent on recruiting, retention, training, and motivating volunteer personnel to effectively function during emergency and non-emergency situations. All aspects of the Central MAT-SU Fire Department require the involvement and participation of volunteers at all levels. The basic premise of this department is a team concept with participative management. Every individual is considered a valuable resource, and their input, feedback, ideas, recommendations, expertise, abilities, attributes, and commitments are important and valued parts of this department. These volunteer personnel are extremely proud of the organization they have helped build and maintain. In light of their accomplishments in areas such as Fire Prevention/Public Education, Fire Suppression, Training, Operations, and Management and Administration of their department consider themselves to be THE NUMBER 1 FIRE DEPARTMENT IN THE STATE! The overall management philosophy is built on the belief that all members share the common goal of serving their community with the highest degree of proficiency and professionalism as possible. In assisting with the achievement of this goal, levels of responsibility and accountability ranging from maintenance of equipment and apparatus to development of computer programs and data bases have been assigned to volunteer personnel. Our key motivation and incentive tool is to exemplify the degree of trust and confidence in these volunteer personnel performing these tasks and their acceptance of the challenge and responsibilities. As a volunteer organization, the Central MAT-SU Fire Department tends to operate in a less formal manner than a paid or full time organization. Although there is an organizational structure established for emergency and non-emergency situations, this approach to managing people and systems works quite well, particularly when dealing with volunteer personnel. It allows the members to participate at a level that is both acceptable and beneficial to the department and comfortable to the individuals involved. This becomes extremely important in meeting the department members needs and is a key element in maintaining, motivating, and providing incentives to the volunteers.