BONNERS FERRY — When people think about firefighters, they often think bravery — the willingness to step into a burning building to save a life — but they rarely think about all the other aspects involved.
Firefighters in this community are almost all volunteers. They give their time to constant training, community involvement, and answering calls, whether it is a burning house, vehicle accident, or to assist the ambulance crew.
For over 15 years, North Bench Volunteer Fire District (NBVFD) has been awarding one of their firefighters or officers the Firefighter of the Year award.
“Over the years the award has changed its appearance or shape but the values surrounding it have remained the same,” said North Bench Fire Chief Gus Jackson. “The North Bench Volunteer Fire District, Firefighter of the Year is a yearly service award for dedication and commitment to our agency and those we serve; it reflects that this individual has spent additional hours relating to training, incident response, station duties, community events and education.”
On Jan. 24, North Bench Firefighter Tom Chaney was chosen as Firefighter of the Year.
“Firefighter Chaney was presented this year’s NBVFD Firefighter of the year based on the values mentioned above, and for his time and effort spent to NBVFD and the people we serve,” said Jackson.
Chaney joined NBVFD over a year and a half ago. He was drawn to become a firefighter so that he could serve his community, as well as the opportunity to learn and use skills that help people in need. He also strives to educate the upcoming generation on fire safety and to be a role model to them.
Chaney, a U.S. Air Force veteran, also spends time organizing and helping with fundraisers to help other veterans, as well as first responders.
Chaney joined the U.S. Air Force six months before 9/11 as a Security Forces.
“My first duty station was Ramstein AFB Germany on a 15 man Nuclear Response Team,” said Chaney. “Then cross trained into Special Vehicle Maintenance for Fire Trucks and shortly moved to next duty station in Kirtland AFB, New Mexico.”
From there he was deployed to Balad/LSA Anaconda, Iraq, where he sustained injuries and returned home to be medically retired after just short of six years of service.
From serving his country to now serving his community, Chaney is known for always having a smile and extending a helping hand.
All the firefighters within NBVFD vote for the Firefighter of the Year, then the chief officers tally and discuss the votes and establish whether the winner has met the requirements for firefighter of the year — including reviewing the firefighters yearly training, the call response, and overall progress and qualities.
“It is a great honor to be chosen for Firefighter of The Year since it is voted on by all of my fellow firefighters here at North Bench Fire Department — so thank you,” said Chaney. “I love being part of the North Bench Fire Department team/family. The dedication, effort, integrity that is shown daily here is a cut above and gives me the drive to keep pushing forward… always.”