The Gering Volunteer Fire Department was recently named recipient of the 2020 Nebraska State Forester Award by Nebraska State Forester John Erixson.
The award traditionally is reserved for arborists, biologists and conservationists, but fire chief Nathan Flowers said the Gering VFD was recognized because of its efforts in training, safety and fire support. The department has a history of supporting the Nebraska State Wildfire Academy, responding to many large wildfires in Nebraska’s history, and hosting the West Nebraska Engine Academy. Additionally, GVFD has worked with the Nebraska Forest Service to become a Cooperating Agency to state and federal agencies.
“It’s an award for people who do outstanding work in protecting Nebraska lands, doing a lot of work with overall promotion of healthy forests and healthy lands in Nebraska,” Flowers said. “In my recollection, this is the first year that a fire department has received this award.”
Flowers said the GVFD has been advocates of fuels reduction, fire suppression and promoting healthy lands for many years.
“We began early on in 2000 to go through the actual rigors of true wildland firefighter training,” he said. “During that process, we reached out to every other state fire department and promoted this whole program, our local engine academy and the support of the engine academy in Crawford just to train our guys in fire suppression so we can keep the fires small here in Nebraska.”
From 2015 to 2017, the department broke through a lot of red tape to become an agency that the state can rely on to fight fires not only locally and regionally, but across the state and nation.
“I believe the state forester believed and felt that those kinds of things went above and beyond what you typically see happen,” Flowers said.
Being recognized with an award not typically given to a fire department spoke to the quality of the department, Flowers said.
“Our guys are really proud,” he said. “We’re very humbled. Recognition is not our strong suit, but our guys are pretty proud of this one. It’s something you don’t see too often. We recognize the hard work that our fire department as a whole has done, and our guys are very, very appreciative. They deserve it. Our department has put in a lot of hard, hard work as volunteers and they well deserved this award.”