TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation is providing firefighters throughout the tribe’s 14-county area with care packages containing face masks, gloves and hand sanitizer to help keep them safe amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

For many first responders, securing protective masks has been difficult due to low supplies and high demand during the COVID-19 pandemic. Because the Cherokee Nation health system is properly stocked with personal protective equipment, tribal leaders worked to secure more than 3,000 KN95 masks for area firefighters. This is the second time the Cherokee Nation has provided KN95 masks to first responders during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Fire departments face difficult challenges every day, so Deputy Chief Bryan Warner, the Council of the Cherokee Nation and I want to make sure our emergency personnel are provided with the equipment they need to continue protecting our communities and keeping citizens safe,” said Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. “As Cherokees, we know the importance of lending a helping hand in times of uncertainty. Providing these departments with protective equipment is a great way to help stop the spread of COVID-19 in our communities.”

Cherokee Nation provided the supplies to 27 fire departments across the tribe’s 14 counties that expressed a need for the equipment. Each department received between 100 and 200 masks, depending on their needs.

“If we didn’t have Cherokee Nation, we wouldn’t have these masks,” said Shawn Christian, Fire Chief of Centralia Volunteer Fire Department in Craig County. “They are so hard to come by these days. It keeps our firefighters safe and gives them peace of mind. I can put a package of masks in each truck now; before, we only had masks in one truck. Thank you, Cherokee Nation. You’ve really done a lot for us.”

Cherokee Nation leaders also recently met with Cherokee County District 3 Commissioner Clif Hall and Tahlequah Fire Department Capt. Mark Whittmore to present a donation of $12,000 in special project funds to help purchase a unit that will produce a disinfectant solution known as hypochlorous acid.

The powerful disinfectant is known to kill germs in 60 seconds and is harmless to humans and non-toxic to the environment, making it a common tool used in the fight against COVID-19. The disinfectant will be used to clean surfaces at schools, community buildings and other facilities in the Cherokee Nation. 

“Our first responders are important to so many people and it is vital that they and their departments have all the safety equipment they need to perform essential emergency services without the risk of contracting or spreading COVID-19,” said Deputy Chief Bryan Warner. “We can help make sure our responders have the equipment they need in order to protect others. I appreciate what these departments are doing for our communities each and every day.”

The Cherokee Nation donated the care packages to fire departments expressing a need, including Butler Volunteer Fire Department in Delaware County, Camp Gruber Fire Department in Muskogee County, Carselowey Community Fire Department in Craig County, Centralia Volunteer Fire Department in Craig County, City of Catoosa in Rogers County, Chimney Rock Volunteer Fire Department in Mayes County, Cowskin Rural Fire District Inc. in Delaware County, Disney Fire Department in Mayes County, Disney Police Department in Mayes County, Fairland Fire Department in Ottawa County, Flat Rock Volunteer Fire Association in Wagoner County, Town of Gore in Sequoyah County, Illinois River Area Association Fire Department in Cherokee County, Keys Fire Department in Cherokee County, Maple Rural Fire District Inc. in Sequoyah County, Mid County Fire Department in Adair County, Muldrow Fire Department in Sequoyah County, Oaks Fire Department in Delaware County, Peggs Volunteer Fire Department in Cherokee County, Redland Fire Department Inc. in Sequoyah County, Rural Fire Protection District #1 in Sequoyah in Wagoner County, Sperry Fire Department in Tulsa County, Taylor Ferry Volunteer Fire Department in Wagoner County, Tiajuana Fire Department in Delaware County, Vian Volunteer Fire Department in Sequoyah County, Woodall Fire Department in Cherokee County, and Whitehorn Fire Department in Wagoner County.

In April, the tribe provided more than 2,500 KN95 masks to fire departments, police departments and emergency management teams throughout the Cherokee Nation’s jurisdiction, and also sent 5,000 masks to the Navajo Nation, whose citizens had been impacted by COVID-19 more than any other Native community in the country.