Firefighters recognized as 2019 flood heroes

WOOD RIVER, Neb. (KSNB) - It has been nearly a year since the devastating floods rolled through central Nebraska towns. Thursday Governor Pete Ricketts took time to recognize those who helped. They're now considered local and state heroes.

Governor Pete Ricketts recognized firefighters in Chapman, Wood River, and Pleasanton for their heroic acts during the flooding in 2019. (KSNB)

In March, when the flood waters arrived, the firefighters of Wood River had no idea what they were about to do would be heroic. They simply did their duty.

“This is what we're trained to do, this is what we volunteer to do, this is what we do and work for,” Wood River President Jenie Maloney said.

People had to be taken from their homes on boats or off the tops of their cars. The Wood River Fire Department was a hub for information and guidance.

“Being informed really helps people not to panic so hard and expect the worst and we're trying to keep the worst from happening and I think they all knew that,” Maloney said.

Maloney kept the community updated on Facebook and over the phone. She didn't leave the fire department for a week. When the water came stronger and faster than anticipated, firefighters from Chapman and Central City loaded up and headed West.

“They took care of us, they took us in like they knew us all their lives. A very special group of people,” Chapman Firefighter Tanner Maw said.

The firefighters were in awe of what they were seeing.

“Even now it's hard to go out and imagine that that window was covered in water and the water is way down in the street now and you're thinking how is that even possible,” Maloney said.

Even after the water disappeared, there was a massive clean up effort and looking back those who responded are proud of what their community accomplished.

“I don't think people realize as a whole in the nation how bad Nebraska really was and it's just a tremendous feat we had to overcome and we just kick in and help with what we can do,” Maloney said.

While they don't personally consider themselves heroes, they all agree on one thing.

“I would do it in a heartbeat, again,” Maw said. “I would do it all again in a heartbeat,” Central City Firefighter Zachary Thompson said.

Firefighters at Wood River said the water tables are still very high and with a wet winter being anticipated they are ready for if it all happens again. The city has been doing what they can to make sure the water won't be as devastating as last year.