Cherokee Nation Contributes $476,000 to 136 Oklahoma Rural Fire Departments

Whitehorn Cove Fire Department
Whitehorn Cove Fire Department was one of two departments recognized as this year’s 2024 Volunteer Fire Department of the Year by the Cherokee Nation.

TAHLEQUAH, OK – The Cherokee Nation is contributing nearly half a million dollars total to 136 Northeast Oklahoma rural fire departments. Each of the 136 fire departments is receiving $3,500 as part of the tribe’s contributions.

“These 136 rural fire departments are invaluable to our Cherokee communities,” said Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. “The brave men and women who serve on these departments leave their homes and their families to help save lives and property of people they have never even met. We don’t always see first-hand the wonderful acts of courage and sacrifice they make through their service, but we know firefighters are selfless. Their efforts each day leave a lasting impression on the Cherokee Nation and the communities in which these men and women live. The Cherokee Nation and our communities owe a debt of gratitude to them, and it is an honor to know the Cherokee Nation is continuing to invest in these departments each and every year.”

The tribe’s annual contribution helps support volunteer fire departments, which otherwise rely on fundraisers, membership dues and the help of their community’s residents to maintain their vital operations.

“All throughout the Cherokee Nation our volunteer fire departments are doing their best to keep all of us safe,” said Cherokee Nation Deputy Chief Bryan Warner. “They never know when that next emergency call might come, and the need for a firefighter to respond and help doesn’t consider whether that firefighter has been working hard all day or whether they have a family event to attend at that moment. Regardless, when those calls for help come in, volunteer firefighters stop what they are doing and go. They are a blessing to our communities and I’m proud we continue to honor them for their service each year.”

During the event, Chief Hoskin also marked the one-year anniversary of Cherokee Nation’s largest contributions to first responders in Cherokee history, the 2023 Cherokee Nation Public Safety Partners Grant. Under that $13 million program, every first responder agency across the tribe’s 7,000 sq. mi. reservation was eligible for $50,000 grants from the $13 million one-time grant fund that closed last fall.

Fire departments shared in $6 million of the Public Safety Partners Grant fund. However, 27 fire departments did not apply for the funding. Chief Hoskin announced a two-week reopening of the $50,000 grant program ending May 24, 2024. 

Disney Fire Department and Whitehorn Cove Fire and Rescue were both recognized as this year’s 2024 Volunteer Fire Departments of the Year.

Disney Fire Department
Disney Fire Department was one of two departments recognized as this year’s 2024 Volunteer Fire Department of the Year by the Cherokee Nation.

Disney Fire Department in Mayes County has worked to lower its ISO ratings over the past year, repairing trucks and fire hydrants and replacing critical lifesaving equipment. Members of the department generously contributed countless hours to this mission, and the result was a substantial lowering of the department’s ISO rating, which will in turn lower insurance premium costs for homeowners within their jurisdiction.

“The Cherokee Nation does show that gratitude to us for doing what we’re doing and they support us 100 percent,” said Larry Sanders, training officer with Disney Fire Department. “It’s a great honor to receive this award.”

Whitehorn Cove Fire and Rescue in Wagoner County has spent the past year implementing new standards and focusing on fire training for its firefighters. The department also installed seven new tornado sirens for its community and updated the department’s firefighter protection equipment.

“With everything going on, it’s always good to have extra. With the price of everything going up – the price of trucks going up, supplies going up, the price of foam going up – everything’s just kind of doubled or tripled in price since 2019, so Cherokee Nation’s contribution is a big help,” said Jordan Lancaster, Chief of Whitehorn Cove Fire Department. “Thanks for everything you all do.”

During the event, the tribe also recognized the Cherokee Nation’s Wildland Fire Management team, which often works 16-hour days while on deployment, and frequently for weeks at a time. Chief Hoskin and Deputy Chief Warner recognized the program and presented honors to Regional Fire Management Officer Forrest Blackbear, Fire Operations Specialist Simeon Gipson, and Division Chief, Natural Resources Brent Gorhing for devoting their time and knowledge to build up the program.

The Cherokee Nation also selected five recipients for the 2024 Volunteer Firefighter of the Year awards:

  • Russell Yell, Mid County Fire Department
  • Matthew Meredith, Tahlequah Fire Department
  • Barney Beaumont, Spring Valley Volunteer Fire Department
  • Chris Lancaster, Jay Fire Department
  • Barney Grigg, Inola Fire Department