Anchorage firefighters are warning people not to fall prey to a scam which appears to exploit recent news coverage as part of a drive for unneeded “donations.”

A statement Sunday night from the Anchorage Fire Department said locals have “received calls from someone who claims to be collecting funds to keep our apparatus in service.”

AFD Chief Jodie Hettrick said Monday morning that word reached the department starting at about 7 p.m. Sunday that "hundreds" of people had received calls.

"They came pretty hard and called what seems like lots of people in a short time period," Hettrick said. "They even called some people here at the department; they weren't being too picky about who they called."

The department had faced a proposed $2.4 million cut in the muni’s 2019 budget, which Hettrick said would have meant not staffing a water tender at Station 14 on Campbell Airstrip Road and a fire engine at Station 12 in South Anchorage.

Last week, however, the Anchorage Assembly passed a $525 million budget which eliminated the cuts – a move Hettrick described as “very fortunate.”

“No one is authorized to collect donations on behalf of AFD and, as of Tuesday night, none of our apparatus are in danger of being closed,” AFD officials wrote Sunday evening.

Hettrick said everyone who reported a scam call to AFD said they hung up on the callers without giving them any money. It wasn't clear where the calls were coming from, based on the initial reports.

"We had some that had a 206 area code and some that had a 907 area code," Hettrick said.

Despite the scam calls' apparent failure, Hettrick said they might have been far more effective just days earlier.

"If this would have happened a week ago before Tuesday, before the budget was saved, I don't think we'd have caught it as quickly," Hettrick said. "Unfortunately, there's really bad people out there who try to take advantage of people's good thoughts about the department."

Anyone who receives such a call is urged to report it to Anchorage police at 311.

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