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Taking initiative and working hard: Kearney Volunteer Fire Department opens doors and opportunities
Brie Maaske
Antelope Staff
Photo courtesy Kearney Hub
Kearney Volunteer Fire Department

When your house is on fire, and you can’t put it out, who ya gonna call? The Kearney Volunteer Fire Department (KVFD).

The KVFD has over 70 volunteers who cover 270 square miles in the Kearney area, and they are always ready for more volunteers who can take advantage of the opportunities provided.

John Keeney, volunteer and chair of recruitment and retention for the KVFD, said all training— classroom and hands on— is paid for by the KVFD, and with the Kearney area growing, he encourages people to take advantage and become a volunteer.

“Since we are volunteers, we always have people coming and going, and it would be nice to have more,” Keeney said.

Each volunteer undergoes about eight months of training, learning everything from how to deal with structure and grass fires to practicing search and rescue skills and responding to vehicle accidents.

Keeney said they are fortunate because the city is so supportive. "As volunteers, KVFD saves the city a lot of money, so they’re really supportive of us,” Keeney said.

According to Keeney the opportunities are extensive. “We have search and rescue buildings where we can move all of the walls inside so we can simulate different buildings," he said.

“We also have a three-story tower where we can do repelling and rope rescue training off the top, and inside we have it hooked up with propane so we can light it up from inside.”

In addition, they have a vehicle hooked up to propane so the volunteers can simulate vehicle fires.

Keeney said that the work and life experience he has gained from being a part of the KVFD helped him in finding employment after graduation.

“When I applied for the job that I have now, the guy said, ‘Well you are on the KVFD, how is that going help you?’ I said, ‘Well I work this hard for free, how hard do you think that I am going to work if you give me a paycheck?’”
For Keeney, volunteering as a fireman stands for something important.

“It shows that you take initiative and go out and work hard,” he said.  “If anyone is thinking that they want to do firefighting professionally somewhere, it is kind of a springboard to get them there. For EMTs or a flight nurse, the department will pay for most of your medical or fire training. You get on the scene before you would in any class, and you learn exactly what it takes.”

Matt Young, a senior criminal justice major, said volunteering doesn’t interfere with other parts of his life. “I go to school full time, have a full-time job, and I am still on the department. I make whatever calls I can.”

Keeney said that in order to become a volunteer, you must be 21 years of age (If you are under 21, you can become an ‘Explorer’), pass a background check, be a legal citizen of the United States, live within two miles of Kearney and have a current driver’s license.

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