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Ponca Hills firefighter dies while battling brush fire north of Omaha

Published: Mar. 11, 2021 at 11:54 AM CST
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FORT CALHOUN, Neb. - A volunteer with a fire department in the Omaha area has died while helping fight a brush fire near Fort Calhoun. Dennis Bender was a volunteer with the Ponca Volunteer Hills Fire Department.

Ponca Hills Fire Chief Joel Sacks says Bender suffered a medical emergency on Wednesday as he helped battle the large blaze in Washington County fueled by dry brush and strong winds. Bender was one of dozens of crews from several departments called in to help.

“I’ve been on the department for 47 years. Dennis and I have been friends that entire time. He will do anything for anybody, anytime, any place. He will be missed by all of us,” said Chief Joel Sacks, Ponca Hills Volunteer fire dept.

Sacks said Bender was one of the state’s longest-serving paramedics and had served in the department for 50 years.

Sacks issued a statement Thursday on behalf of the Ponca Hills Volunteer Fire Department:

"It is with deep sadness that we report the line-of-duty death of Ponca Hills Firefighter Paramedic Dennis M. Bender. Firefighter Bender passed away as the result of a medical emergency while working in a support role at a large brush fire east of Fort Calhoun in rural Washington County.

Firefighter Bender servd the Ponca Hills Volunteer Fire department and Ponca Hills community for 50 years. Firefighter Bender was among the first group of Certified Paramedics in the State of Nebraska and at the time of his death was the senior active Paramedic in the State. We ask for your prayers for his family, firefighter family and friends.”

Ponca Hills Fire Chief Joel Sacks

Members of the department say Bender’s memory will live on through the firefighters he helped train.

“Over the last year and a half, the Ponca Hills Volunteer Fire Department has been blessed with an influx of new members. Dennis was instrumental in their training and passing along his many years of knowledge and experience,” said Mike Pallas, Ponca Hills Fire Dept. President.

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