About Us

Fire Chief, Forrest Kuiper

Chief Schrage in front of fire apparatus

Welcome! Thank you for your interest in the University Fire Department. We are a fully functioning fire and emergency medical service that protects the University of Alaska Fairbanks Troth Yeddha’ campus and its students, employees, and visitors. We also contract with the Fairbanks North Star Borough to provide these services to area residents and businesses. We operate a variety of engines, ladder trucks and ambulances out of two stations, one on campus and one off campus. The unique part is we are staffed entirely by full-time UAF students trained and supervised by a staff of ten career IAFF fire officers. Our student firefighters get the same training and certifications as professional firefighters anywhere and provide the highest available level of fire, rescue, and advanced life support care.

Working in close association with the Community and Technical College and the College of Business and Security Management, the UFD is an extraordinary program to prepare student firefighters for careers in fire and emergency services. Many of our student employees are enrolled in the Municipal Fire Control, Paramedic, and Bachelor of Emergency Management degree programs. Students work a full 56-hour per week shift schedule (48 hours on-96 hours off) which includes emergency responses, station upkeep, apparatus maintenance, training, and attending college classes. The combination of training, education, and real-world experience has resulted in an impressive placement rate for our alumni. Many of our alumni become top candidates in fire service jobs and often promote to management positions.

Having help every position now at the University Fire Department from student firefighter to Fire Chief over the last 24 years, I am confident in the service we deliver to our community, and the firefighters and leaders we are developing for the future of the fire service.  I invite you to explore our website and contact me directly if you have any questions.

Proudly serving,


Forrest Kuiper
(907) 474-7681

Chief Kuiper has over 20 years in the fire service. He has a Master’s degree in public administration, Bachelors in emergency management and Associates degrees in Fire Science-all from the University of Alaska. Additionally, Chief Kuiper is a National Fire Academy Executive Fire Officer.



How It Began…

Willard "Buck" Whitaker plaque

Starting in 1923 until 1964 the University Fire Department (UFD) provided fire protection to the campus using a bucket brigade and then primarily military surplus fire apparatus and equipment. Prior to the involvement of the students, physical plant employees functioned as the campus fire brigade. The distance from the City of Fairbanks Fire Department and extremely poor road conditions forced the campus into developing its own fire protection capabilities. In the mid-1950’s the surrounding college community approached the university and requested fire protection for the area adjacent to campus in the community of College. The University agreed to provide this protection and over the next 40+ years, has developed its coverage area to serve approximately 22,000 residents in 2006. During the 1960’s the department slowly progressed to an all-student fire department and operated with a pumper truck which was housed in the maintenance buildings. In 1964, the fire station dormitory was constructed, housing 11 students, an apartment for the proctor, and two engines. Buck Whitaker was hired in 1967 as the department’s first Fire Chief. His job was to concentrate on fire codes, inspections and fire prevention for the campus. The current fire service contract with the Fairbanks North Star Borough was signed in 1977, when the University Fire Service area formed.

University Fire Department

Student paramedics
Photo courtesy of Todd Paris

The University Fire Department is located on the main campus of the University of Alaska Fairbanks.  It is unique in that it is one of the few fire departments in the United States that provides protection to the campus as well as a large off-campus service area and does it with student firefighters. The department consists of 11 full-time staff and 40+ student firefighters. The fire department is part of an area-wide mutual aid agreement and works with many other fire departments located in the Fairbanks North Star Borough. The use of mutual aid helps maximize the response capabilities of the area department while responding to major incidents or large disasters.  The Fire Department has a contract to provide both fire and EMS services in the off-campus service area.  The University Fire Department has an ISO 2 in the hydranted area of the department and an ISO 3 rating in the non-hydranted areas as of April 1, 2011.

The firefighters are required to be students with the University of Alaska Fairbanks.  They must carry a minimum of 12 credits and maintain at least a 2.0 grade point average. The students attend school while on duty and respond from class when necessary.  Firefighters are full-time student employees and therefore, work through the summer.  Student firefighters are assigned to one of three shifts and work an average of 56 hours per week.   Although student firefighters do not have vacation time, they are allowed multiple shift trades. The commitment from the student firefighters toward school and work is rigorous and requires self-discipline.  University Fire Department's mission is to provide effective fire, rescue, and emergency medical services while preparing student employees for leadership in emergency services.  University Fire Department is committed to assisting student firefighters to succeed in that mission.

Student Firefighters

Apparatus driver/operator training
Apparatus Driver/Operator Training

Want a job in emergency services?  The University Fire Department is one of the few places in the United State that pays you as a student firefighter while earning your degree.  The hands-on, interactive program gives you the same skills as career firefighters and EMTs.

Water resuce training
Water Rescue Training