Homer Alaska - News

Story last updated at 4:49 PM on Wednesday, June 22, 2011

New fire, EMS chief named for Anchor Point

By McKibben Jackinsky
Staff Writer


Ben Maxon, standing in front of numerous awards earned by the Anchor Point Fire and Emergency Medical Service Area, is the service area's new chief.

After years away, former Kenai Peninsula resident Ben Maxon has returned home.

Following Bob Craig's retirement as administrator of the Anchor Point Fire and Emergency Medical Service Area in January, Maxon has been filling in on an interim basis. He was one of four applicants for the service area's new chief position and, on May 31, he accepted the offer to take on the role permanently.

"An effective date for the position will be July 1, with the new (fiscal year) budget," said Sue Wilcox of the Kenai Peninsula Borough mayor's office. "He will remain in interim status until that date."

As chief, Maxon will oversee how training is dispersed, which volunteers are qualified to respond and ensure firefighting and emergency medical service programs continue at the optimum level.

"His first charge is getting Anchor Point policies and procedures in place," said Wilcox. "One component we do need to work on is the bylaws with (Anchor Point Fire and Rescue Inc.), the volunteer group, because there cannot be conflicting relationships between volunteers, the service area board and our chief."

Maxon, the son of former Homer Chief of Police Don Maxon, grew up in Homer.

"I actually volunteered when I was a kid for the Homer fire and police department," said Maxon of his early connection to emergency response.

Enlisting in the U.S. Coast Guard, he became involved in search and rescue operations, shipboard firefighting and, while stationed at the Annette Air Station in the early 1970s, worked in the fire department there.

Following the Coast Guard, Maxon served with the Alaska State Troopers and was involved in public safety until he retired in 1991.

He completed graduate studies, with an emphasis in criminology and education through Canterbury University both in New Zealand and in Australia. Through Alaska Public Safety Consultants Inc., Maxon offered public safety courses throughout the state between 1991 and 2010. He also returned to the Kenai Peninsula in 1991, volunteering with the Anchor Point fire and emergency medical responders. During that time, he helped Anchor Point receive accreditation for the department's training program.

"We have a program that's been scrutinized by the state and meets their requirements," said Maxon. "We actually have the ability to teach our own people without having to send them away to an academy. We can do our own academy."

The goal of teaching Firefighter II and Fire Officer courses is now in Maxon's sights.

"We can do that," he said. "It's just a matter of getting the ball rolling."

As the new chief, his focus includes ensuring Anchor Point complies with all National Fire Protection Association regulations and providing the community with the service APFEMSA is committed to provide.

"It's a matter of making sure everybody is working together toward a common goal. That goal is rolling out the door with trained, qualified people to meet the needs of the community," he said. "That's our primary focus, making sure we can accomplish that."

Craig now serves as president of the volunteer group, which is going through a name change, soon to known as "Anchor Point Fire and Emergency Services." Maxon also is supported by Robin Proctor, president of the service area board, volunteer fire chief Keith Sullivan and volunteer EMS chief Kayt Ligenza Andrews.

"Keith was one of my firefighter students back in 1995 ... and was voted in as chief about two and a half years ago," said Maxon.

Andrews began volunteering for APFEMSA after taking an EMT 1 class at the University of Alaska Anchorage in 2001. She took the next level in EMT training through the Homer Volunteer Fire Department and, after completing paramedic training in Pittsburgh, Pa., was employed as a paramedic for the city of Pittsburgh in 2007. Returning to Alaska, Andrews traveled around the southern region of the state, teaching "everything from CPR to advanced cardiac life support," she said. Earlier this year, she accepted the volunteer position of Anchor Point's EMT chief.

"We feel very fortunate to have a paramedic running the EMS program. She's doing a bang-up job," Maxon said.

Maxon's plan is to divide his time between the fire hall in Anchor Point and the station in Nikolaevsk. He will work equally at both locations to bring the facilities, apparatus equipment and manpower needs up to speed.

"Nikolaevsk is probably where we'll end up settling," he said. "My wife, Svetlana, is a retired school teacher from Russia. We have family out there, as well as in Homer and Anchor Point."

His commitment to APFEMSA is "for however long it takes, as long as I'm needed. After that, I'm going fishing. ... Regardless, it's nice to be home," Maxon said.

McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at mckibben.jackinsky@homernews.com.