BETHEL, Alaska — Bethel’s fire department has been relying on a pair of dilapidated ambulances as it deals with an increasing number of calls, but recent donations could help the department get a new emergency vehicle by the end of the year.

The fire department has raised over $170,000 since it began fundraising for a new ambulance this past summer. The goal is to raise $255,000, KYUK-AM reported (

Fire Chief Bill Howell said the department’s two ambulances often break down, impacting response times for emergencies. The 15-year-old emergency vehicles have been operating more than twice as long as their recommended service times.

“What we’re seeing, though, with some of our older diesel ambulances is that we’re just getting declining returns out of them. They’re continuously breaking down month after month and it’s beginning to, or it has, impacted our ability to respond to emergencies. There have been a couple of different occasions; thank god they were not serious or really severe calls,” Howell said.

The department is expected to receive more emergency calls this year compared to 2015, when it received 1,182 calls. Last year marked the department’s highest number of calls in 25 years.

“This year we’re on track to beat that, so we should be, if the current call volume continues as it is, we’ll beat last year’s record call numbers pretty handily,” Howell said.

Bethel could get a new ambulance as soon as next summer if the department orders one by the end of the year.

Community members have pitched in to help the city meet its fundraising goal. The VFW Auxiliary recently contributed $14,500, and the Bethel Lions Club gave $50,000, Howell said.

Information from: KYUK-AM,

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