Heroes of the Last Frontier! Engineer/Paramedic Matt Deatherage and Volunteer Firefighter/ETT Devren Bennett, winners of LifeMed Alaska’s Heroes of the Last Frontier contest. Matt Deatherage & Devren Bennett – Firefighters, Winners, and Heroes of the Last Frontier “Hello, Mr. Deatherage?” “This is Matt.” “Hi, Matt. We are with the Heroes of the Last Frontier contest. We are excited to inform you that out of over 500 applicants, you have been drawn as the winner for the Statewide Category, prizes totaling to $2,000 for you and your organization. Congratulations!” How would you feel if you received this phone call? “I was shocked,” said Matt, “There were a lot of people who entered this contest. I’m sure all of the other applicants were great—I didn’t do anything to deserve this. I’m so grateful to be lucky enough to be nominated and to win.” The Heroes of the Last Frontier contest was launched in October by LifeMed Alaska, an air medical transport company headquartered in Anchorage. The contest celebrated first responders across the State, including a Facebook campaign of appreciation and over $3,000 in prizes to be split between a first responder from Alaska and a first responder from Petersburg, a new service area for LifeMed. The response was huge. Alaskans from Kenai to Kotzebue shared the inspiring stories of their favorite first responders with the hashtag #AKHero. Engineer/Paramedic Matt Deatherage was the Statewide winner. Matt is a full-time employee of the North Pole Fire Department. An adrenaline junkie, Matt got himself in trouble in school because he always wanted to do “exciting things,” which often resulted in unwise decisions. When his counselor had him job shadow at the Kenai Fire Department to curb some of his adrenaline, Matt was hooked. Since that time, Matt has gone through extensive training and served for a couple different search and rescue helicopter companies before finally landing at the Fire Department. The North Pole Fire Department. We asked Matt how serving as an Alaska first responder is different from serving in other states. “In Alaska, the distance between the initial care we as first responders provide and the definitive care of a hospital is often great,” says Matt, “We are dealing with longer transport times—It can be hours before we get someone to a hospital. We have fewer hospitals and less access to healthcare in general.” Volunteer Firefighter/ETT Devren Bennett gave us his perspective as a Petersburg first responder. Devren was the contest winner for Petersburg. “In Petersburg, we are off the road system, so we do not have access to mutual aid,” says Devren, “We must be self-sufficient. In Anchorage, you can call any one of multiple firehouses in the area for assistance if a fire gets too large. Here we have one fire department and limited staff.” Devren has been a Volunteer Firefighter with the Petersburg Fire Department for the past 9 years and a certified ETT for the past 6. He also runs the Junior Firefighter Program for Petersburg. Devren juggles his service with the Fire Department with managing a local electronics repair shop, which he owns. He first decided to become a firefighter because he had some free time available and he wanted to give back to the Petersburg community. He stays for the invaluable skills he learns—such as throwing ladders and vehicle extrication—as well as the relationships and camaraderie he develops. He also appreciates the opportunity he has to teach young adults in the community fire basics—everything from fire science to forcible entry. “I enjoy challenging myself and others,” says Devren, “and there is no better place to do that than the fire service.” The Petersburg Volunteer Fire Department. We asked both Matt and Devren what they love about living in Alaska. MATT: “The sun. Fairbanks gets almost 24 hours of daylight in the summer, which is perfect for fishing and other outdoor activities. You have all of the time in the world to do everything that you want outdoors.” DEVREN: “Fishing, hunting, and boating. I was born and raised in Alaska and I enjoy every bit of it.” Matt and Devren’s current Facebook profile pictures, both fishing. If you would like more stories about Alaska first responders, read the story of Peter Casey, a LifeMed flight paramedic who was airlifted after he broke his neck snowboarding.