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Henderson Fire Department & Emergency Medical Service Making Improvements

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Henderson Fire Department Chief Sheldon Epp next to their new refurbished grass rig truck.

Sometimes, it’s good to be reminded about our local volunteer services that we may take for granted. These individuals who volunteer are continually sacrificing their time and efforts making sure Henderson’s local fire and rescue services are up-to-date and ready for every call. 

On Saturday, the Henderson Fire Department (HFD) will be holding its annual Pancake Feed, which is an important fundraiser for them. Here’s a look at what is happening at our local fire department and why they need our community support. 

Sheldon Epp is the current Fire Chief who took over last November. He is a 2002 Heartland graduate who has been an HFD volunteer since 2006, and like most volunteers, he has a full-time job. He gave me a tour of the fire barn and a look at their new equipment and recent renovations. 

HFD recently acquired a new truck through a unique Nebraska Forestry Service program. They provide, through a special lease/own agreement, decommissioned military trucks to fire departments. Last November, HFD purchased a Steward & Stephenson truck and had it refurbished to meet their needs as a second grass rig truck. Grass and field fires are among the department’s top calls, so this new truck will greatly aid their efficiency. 

“The Forestry Department requires you to paint the truck so no military colors are showing and put the Forestry logo on the door. We had it outfitted with a skid, 1200-gallon tank, pumps, lighting, and a portable tank,” said Epp. It also features an exterior catwalk where two extra guys can ride and two front exterior sprayers that can be operated from inside the cab. 

The fire barn is undergoing some needed renovations. Their old plywood lockers have been removed, and they are currently painting the interior walls and installing new bright red metal lockers. HFD members are, of course, doing the work themselves, and the new lockers were built locally by Sheldon’s father, Wilbur Epp. 

Like most volunteer organizations, it sometimes can be a struggle to recruit new members, but according to Epp, they have been fortunate attracting new volunteers. They currently have two members going through online and in-class training, which entails traveling to Lincoln or Omaha for some of the classes. Almost all of HFD’s volunteers are also trained EMTs. 

Training is an important part of maintaining a quality volunteer fire and EMS department. HFD holds some training that is required by the State Fire Marshall in-house when possible, but sometimes, they have to travel to complete a hands-on training session.

HFD averages around 35 fire-related calls and an estimated 70 Emergency Medical Service (EMS) calls annually. The Bradshaw Fire Department doesn’t have an ambulance, so when they require one, the Henderson Rescue Unit will assist. 

Henderson’s Medical Emergency Service unit received a new power load device to aid in transporting and lifting patients in and out of the ambulance according to EMT Captain Cheryl Brown. “It’s been amazing to be able to lift patients without using manpower,” said Brown.

Even with an adequate volunteer force, it can still be a problem when there aren’t enough members available for a call. They rely on mutual aid from surrounding departments like Bradshaw, Hampton, Sutton, and York when they are short-handed or don’t think they can handle a particular situation, said Epp.   

They hold regular meetings on the first Monday of the month, and in addition, the officers meet on the last Monday of the month. Officers include Sheldon Epp – Fire Chief; David May – Assistant Fire Chief; Lieutenants – Luke Haidle, Lance Hiebner, Matt Hiebner, and Joe Park. Cheryl Ratzlaff is the EMT Captain, and Lance Hiebner is the Assistant EMT Captain. 

Here is their current member board in the fire barn meeting room in order of their start dates.

“We’re all in this to help each other,” said Epp, and they are always looking for new volunteers who they will gladly assist in obtaining the proper training and learning the ropes. Come out for their Pancake Feed on Saturday from 6 a.m. to 1 p.m. and show your support and encouragement for Henderson’s outstanding Fire Department.