King Cove’s new ambulance is a heavy duty 2023 Ford 550, with a 4x4 drivetrain gas remounted Osage type Super Warrior, liquid ride rear suspension, and VHF radio that ties into the current radio system in the city of King Cove. Photo courtesy of Aleutians East Borough

A shiny new, candy-apple red ambulance slated to arrive in King Cove on Friday is the culmination of long-term efforts of the Aleutian Islands community, working with the Belkofski Tribe and Aleutian Housing Authority (AHA). 

The city’s only current ambulance, a 1989 Collins Ford F-350, has been in operation for over two decades, and despite excellent maintenance, some issues faced by the vehicle are beyond repair, emergency operations officials said. 

“The ambulance we have now is high up off the ground, and it’s very hard for our providers to get in and out,” said King Cove City Fire Chief Chris Babcock. “Lifting the stretcher to get into the back of the ambulance is next to impossible.” 

King Cove medics also have had to deal with other issues with their current ambulance, including a slipping transmission, spongy brakes and oil leaks, said Kennedy Serr, AHA’s operations manager. 

Babcock and Serr were interviewed by Laura Tanis, communications for the Aleutians East Borough, for the article about the new ambulance in “In the Loop,” a borough news bulletin. 

There was no doubt that the old ambulance needed to be replaced, but funding at first seemed almost insurmountable.  


“Public safety vehicles, especially fire trucks and ambulances, are high-ticket items,” Babcock said. 

“We are so grateful for our first responders here,” said Lynn Farr, Belkofski Tribe President. “AHA reached out to us about one-time grant funds to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, and we thought, let’s try to get an ambulance.” 

Under the CARES Act, $100 million was made available specifically for the ICDBG-IT CARES program. AHA, working closely with its tribal partners, applied for two grants under this funding opportunity: the Unalaska Food Pantry, in partnership with the Qawalangin Tribe of Unalaska; and the King Cove Ambulance Replacement, in partnership with the Belkofski Tribe. Both grants were submitted simultaneously. The Unalaska Food Pantry was successfully funded, however, the grant for a new ambulance was not.  

As luck would have it, it was all about timing, Tanis noted. Another opportunity later presented itself. In 2021, additional funding became available under the American Rescue Plan (ARP) ICDBG program.  

“We reapplied as a ‘Phase One’ applicant, which gave us a little advantage because we were not funded in the first round,” Serr said. “Thankfully, we were awarded $354,000 on December 30, 2021.”