The Husky Nattiq airboat is the third boat of its kind in Alaska, but the first for a fire department, said Archie Ferguson, president of the Kotzebue Volunteer Fire Association and deputy fire chief.He
said the other two are in of Deadhorse for oil companies.
"We're hoping to blaze a trail for all types of governments like city, borough, state and federal, to incorporate this brand of airboat for emergency response, especially in the most dangerous times of the year," he
said."Spring-time thaw and fall-time freeze-up as well as summer and winter uses."
Not to mention, the airboat is a beautiful, fire-engine red.Ferguson
made sure both the airboat and the Dodge Dakota purchased to tow it were a matching cherry-red color.Ferguson
was the driving force behind getting the airboat following a few boating-accident deaths.He
was spurred by the death of his
mother-in-law and a friend during a "pretty screwy freeze-up.
Armed with only a 15 1/2-foot Kodiak boat to use in rescue and body-recovery operations, the fire department relied heavily upon residents to help.Often an airboat was not readily available when seal hunters or snowmachiners fell through ice or left stranded by moving flows.
"We knew there was a real need and we almost lost a couple of guys, good friends, one year when they fell through the ice coming home from spring hunting," Ferguson
The $180,000 used to pay for the rescue airboat and Dodge truck plus shipping costs was collected predominantly through the Arctic Sun Video Store
, a non-profit business that's used strictly to raise money for the fire department.Most of the money was collected through pull-tab sales at the store, Ferguson
"No city monies, no borough monies, no state monies, no federal monies were gathered to buy this boat," Ferguson
"It's totally different than you see in the Everglades," said Ferguson