Cherokees recognize area volunteer fire departments
Mark Friedel Staff Reporter
Oklahoma firefighters many of them volunteers, fought extreme heat and dehydration these past few months as wildfires swept across the state. Thanks to area departments many properties and lives were saved.
The Cherokee Nation recognized hundreds of local volunteer firefighters and departments during a special banquet and ceremony at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Tuesday night in Catoosa.
This was the fourth year that the Cherokee Nation has celebrated the work of volunteer firefighters.
The tribe contributed nearly $500,000 to area fire departments for use on equipment, supplies and other needed items. Each of 127 departments received a check for $3,582.67.
“Firefighter of the Year” awards included Cherie Brave from Spring Valley Volunteer Fire Department in Lost City, Scott O’ Neal from the Tri-Community Volunteer Fire Department in Adair County, Nick Scott from the Shady Grove Central High Volunteer Fire Department in Mcintosh County and Rod Windle of Bluejacket, outside of Vinita.
Two volunteer departments, Brushy Mountain in Sallisaw and Afton in Ottawa County won “Fire Department of the Year” awards.
Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker and Deputy Principal Chief Joe Crittenden presented the awards.
“We know that this is about more than money,” said Crittenden. “We invite you here because you have our backs, protecting our families 24/7. Tonight, members of the council want you to know that we have your backs.”
The tribe also recognized the Cherokee Fire Dancers and Cherokee Rangers, who lend support when the National Forest Service needs extra hands in California, Colorado or other states with wildfires.
Cherokee Rangers are a wild-land fire crew based out of the Cherokee Nation Natural Resources Department. Annually the team suppreses around 200 wildfires within the Cherokee Nation.