ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — An Alaska fire department is deploying its emergency vehicles to help young community members trapped at home on their birthdays while sheltering from the coronavirus.
The Chugiak Volunteer Fire and Rescue Company is taking requests to provide drive-by salutes for kids living in its service area of 50 square miles (130 square kilometers), The Anchorage Daily News reported Sunday.
A seven-vehicle brigade of two fire engines, two paramedic trucks, a water tender, a search-and-rescue truck and a captain’s truck rolled through a neighborhood with lights flashing and sirens blaring for JJ Morton and Kaleb Worland.
The two boys, who both became teenagers Saturday, live a few houses away from each other in Chugiak, 21 miles (34 kilometers) northeast of Anchorage.
Kaleb and JJ were among seven kids who received birthday brigades on Saturday, which Beaty said took about an hour.
The rescue company is thrilled to provide the service to the community, said Lt. Brenda Beaty, who helps schedule and organize the events.
The department has more than 100 volunteers and a fleet of 24 vehicles and the brigades are a form of community outreach and education, Beaty said. Those watching the trucks roll by see drivers wearing masks and practicing social distancing.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.
The department published a Facebook post about the brigades Thursday. By Saturday Beaty had a list of 42 boys and girls in Chugiak whose April birthdays are scheduled to be celebrated.
Beaty expects the list to expand and hopes to fill all the requests, as long as they do not overstretch the rescue personnel.
“I have volunteers coming all the way from south Anchorage and the (Matanuska-Susitna) valley just because they want to drive for an hour and see a child smile,” Beaty said.