The Cherokee Nation handed out nearly $500,000 to 131 Oklahoma volunteer fire departments Monday evening.
During the ceremony at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, the tribe gave $3,500 to each department.
Cherokee Principal Chief Bill John Baker says $458,500 is set aside in the tribe’s budget each year to help the volunteer departments.
“I believe the men and women who answer the call to be a firefighter deserve Cherokee Nation’s thanks and support. They are on call 24/7, 365 days a year, to ensure we remain safe. What they do is vital to our overall success in northeast Oklahoma. That’s why year after year, Cherokee Nation makes financial investments in rural volunteer fire departments so they can be better equipped to protect our families, our homes and our property,” Principal Chief Bill John Baker said.
Chief Baker said the money can pay for equipment, fuel or anything else the departments need to maintain their fire protection services.
In a news release, the Cherokee Nation also selected five recipients for the 2017 Volunteer Firefighter of the Year awards:
- Allison Paige Long, of Langley, for saving the life of a boy involved in a head-on car crash last August. Long and her family drove upon the crash on Spavinaw Hill. She climbed into a crushed car and found a 12-year-old, who was in the backseat and not breathing. Long, a Langley volunteer firefighter since 2010, cleared the boy’s airway, controlled his bleeding and stayed in the car until he was freed. The teen is currently paralyzed from the waist down but survived due to Long’s training and response.
- Sean Goodwin, of Wagoner, for responding to a call with the Whitehorn Fire Department and reviving a child thought to have drowned in a lake. Goodwin relied on his training as a first responder and was able to save the child’s life.
- David Riggs, of Muldrow, for serving more than 17 years as fire chief for the Maple Fire Department. Riggs helped establish the department in 1995 and often used his own property to ensure firefighters had the equipment necessary to respond to calls. Even after stepping down as chief, Riggs continues to respond to nearly every call during the day, often alone.
- Chrix Hoxit, of Muldrow, for his commitment to the Brushy Fire Department. Hoxit established the “Ready, Set, Go” program to help the elderly be fire-safe. He also obtained grants for equipment and set up a program to help raise money for the Brushy Fire Department. Hoxit also works to keep firefighters hydrated and fed while they are fighting fires and networks with Cherokee Nation Risk Management.
- Jim Huyck, of Cookson, who donates 40-60 hours per week between the Cookson and Chicken Creek fire departments. Huyck helps firefighters stay trained on emerging medical services, allowing the departments to respond to medical calls. Recently, Huyck taught two extensive classes on medical response. His training allows firefighters to save the lives of others.