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Chief Riley Shurtleff departs Cooper Landing Emergency Services

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Courtesy of Riley Shurtleff
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Outgoing Cooper Landing Emergency Services Fire Chief Riley Shurtleff.

Cooper Landing’s Emergency Services Fire Chief Riley Shurtleff is heading back to his hometown of Cayuga County, New York to serve as emergency services director there. He announced Tuesday he’ll be replaced by Dan Osborn, a current volunteer with the nonprofit department.

KDLL’s Riley Board caught up with Shurtleff Thursday, on his last day, to talk about what he’s proudest of from his two-and-a-half years as chief.

This interview has been edited for brevity. 

KDLL: What were your favorite parts of working at Cooper Landing EMS, and what are you proudest of?

Riley Shurtleff: So, Cooper Landing has been really fortunate to receive a tremendous amount of public and financial support. So Cooper Landing is a 501c3 nonprofit, which is something that is a terrible uphill battle for an agency that's involved in public safety to try and face. When your day-to-day budget is made up of ambulance billings, but then donations, fundraisers and grants, you're constantly seeking out funding to provide for whatever new tool or new equipment or gear you're trying to purchase.

One of the things that we've benefited from, truly, was funding through the Alaska Community Foundation during the COVID money, or the ARPA [American Rescue Plan Act] money, that came out. And we dedicated a lot of that to upgrading our fleet and our equipment. And our equipment — really through the direction of our Deputy Chief Clay Adams, he’s just been a phenomenal asset, but with his direction and his experience from nearly four decades in EMS in Texas — basically, I just went out and sought grants and dedicated it towards equipment that he said we could use.

What did that include? It included power load stretchers, it included new LifePak, new EKG monitors and defibrillator. We purchased a brand new ambulance in the time we've been here. We moved forward with raising funds to purchase a brand new fire engine.

What have I enjoyed the most? Truly I gotta say, it's my crew. We've got some phenomenal people in this community. We've got a great operation. We've got a great dynamic and a great base of responders that have all gone above and beyond their community to go out and train, to go out and learn, to pick up on things, to try and do the best they can to be available to run emergency calls. Because there's no predicting when they're going to happen.

KDLL: Can you tell me about the new position that you’re moving to?

RS: I will be leaving to head back to New York, where I was born and raised. I'm heading back to Cayuga County, where I'll become the Emergency Services Director. This position is very akin to the Borough Emergency Management Officer, and it's a kind of upper level job that works with departments and agencies throughout the county. Believe it or not, this is a job that I went on a career day ride along in high school with. It's something that I've wanted to do since I was about 16 years old. And now I'm fortunate to be given the chance to move into it.

KDLL: Can you tell me about who is taking over your role in Cooper Landing?

RS: Sure thing. I'm going to be replaced as the chief by Dan Osborn. Dan Osborn is a local Cooper Landing resident. He's currently assigned to the U.S. Forest Service Station in Moose paths. He's got a little over 20 years of involvement in wildland firefighting and EMS in general. Dan's a phenomenal asset. He's been our fire captain since December of 2020. And he is a steadfast, reliable presence and if you need something, Dan’s your man.

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Courtesy of Riley Shurtleff
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Incoming Cooper Landing Fire Chief Dan Osborn.

KDLL: In a broader sense, what are you going to miss most about Alaska and Cooper Landing?

RS: Oh, man, that's a hard question. It's really a bittersweet departure. I'm very excited about the new opportunity, but I truly love Alaska. I first visited it in 2012, and I moved up here five years ago. This is a beautiful state, it has an abundance of views, of wildlife. But truly, it's like the comment about the crew and my department. It's the people that I'm going to miss. It's the community effort that I'm gonna miss. There's so many good people in this state that make living here through the weather, through whatever changes come, worth it. And so that's definitely something that I'm gonna miss, for sure.

KDLL: Is there anything else you want to add?

RS:This agency is constantly in need of support, whether it's through donation dollars, or whether it's through somebody stepping up and being a volunteer in the community. It takes a true, town-wide effort, so to speak, and it definitely can always use more hands and more coins in the bank. And as it moves forward, I believe wholly in the future of Cooper Landing. And I definitely think that it can always use further support wherever it can come from.

Tonight, Cooper Landing EMS will celebrate Shurtleff with a going away potluck. The event is today at 6 p.m. at the Gwin’s Lodge Pavilion in Cooper Landing.

Riley Board is a Report For America reporter covering rural communities on the central Kenai Peninsula for KDLL.
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