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Cherokee Nation Donates $455,000 to Volunteer Firefighters

09/20/2012
September 20, 2012
Representatives from the Brushy Mountain Volunteer Fire Department accept the Northern Region Volunteer Fire Department of the Year award from Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker and Deputy Principal Chief Joe Crittenden.
Representatives from the Brushy Mountain Volunteer Fire Department accept the Northern Region Volunteer Fire Department of the Year award from Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker and Deputy Principal Chief Joe Crittenden.

CATOOSA, Okla. — The Cherokee Nation thanked 127 rural fire departments this week for protecting local homes and businesses by handing over checks totaling nearly a half million dollars. “These men and women are highly trained and skilled and are on call 24/7, 365 days a year, to protect our families. We just want to recognize and thank them for those services,” Principal Chief Bill John Baker said. “What they do is so important, and this is a way to help them continue to keep our areas safe.”

This has been one of Oklahoma’s driest summers on record, leading to a string of wildfires. Volunteer fire departments rely heavily on fundraisers and membership drives to pay for fuel, equipment and other expenses. Each of the 127 fire departments received a $3,582 check to help cover those costs. In addition to receiving the funds, the fire departments were also treated to a banquet at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa, where the Cherokee Nation awarded firefighter and department of the year awards.

The Sallisaw Brushy Mountain Volunteer Fire Department was named the tribe’s Volunteer Fire Department of the Year for the southern region. Its crew of one paramedic, two ambulance drivers, seven first responders and four certified swift water rescue divers responded to 26 structure fires and salvaged all but three. “They not only helped put fires out in the neighborhood and volunteered to find missing hunters and children, but they also ran concession stands at school festivals and donated to buy them playground equipment,” said Deputy Chief Joe Crittenden, who emceed the dinner and awards.

Afton Volunteer Fire Department, nominated by their town mayor for donating more than 1,150 volunteer hours to provide citizens with peace of mind, won Volunteer Fire Department of the Year for the tribe’s northern region. Volunteer Firefighter of the Year awards were also given to Rod Windle of Bluejacket, Cherie Brave of Hulbert, Nick Scott of Checotah and Scott O’Neal of Stilwell. O’Neal dropped his part-time handyman job and drove a fire truck from Stilwell to Mannford in August to work nearly three days battling the wildfire that scorched more than 50,000 acres. “I appreciate the recognition very much, and our department will use the money to repair fire trucks and buy other supplies that we’ve put off but need,” O’Neal said.


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