Lifetime Members

A Lifetime Member is any retired member with at least 20 years of active service or line of duty death. The department is genuinely appreciative of their dedication to serve and are greatly missed.


Robert Heminger &
Kenneth Woitalewicz

In the early morning hours of Valentines Day 2004 in a heroic attempt to save the life of an elderly woman two of our bravest fire fighters were critically injured. Captain Robert “Bobby ” Heminger and Captain Kenny Woitalewicz suffered devastating injuries when the roof of the home they were searching collapsed on them. After being rescued themselves from the smoldering rubble of the collapse both men fought for their lives.

Captain Heminger lost his battle for survival on Sunday, February 15, 2004. He leaves behind a wife and two young children.

Mr. Heminger coached his son’s baseball teams and was a Boy Scout leader. He taught CPR for Central Community College in Grand Island. He had helped with Farm Safety at the Wood River High School since its inception. He worked at several Husker Harvest Days with the fire department and Cargill. He enjoyed pheasant hunting in Farwell, golf, working on computers, grilling and coaching and attending his children’s sporting events.

Captain Woitalewicz lost his battle for survival at 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday, February 17, 2004. Kenny left behind a wife and two young boys.

Kenny was a Captain with the Wood River Volunteer Fire Department. He was a dedicated fireman who truly loved all of the fire department activities. He was a master craftsman and liked building projects with steel in his shop. He was known throughout the community for his radiating smile and the often heard honk of the horn from his pickup as he waved as he drove by. Kenny was also known as a practical joker who left many a smile on the faces of his Wood River friends.

Captains Heminger and Woitalewicz have displayed the ultimate in bravery and paid the ultimate in sacrifice for their community.



Gerald Hensley

Gerald was active in the Wood River community where he was instrumental in starting the first Rescue Unit in 1972. He served as an EMT and captain of the squad for many years as well as being a fireman.

Roger Derr

He was instrumental in Wood River becoming one of the first all-volunteer Paramedic Rescue Squads in the state. He was honored with the Nebraska Paramedic of the year by NEMSA in 2004. Over the years he held almost every office on the department including serving as Fire Chief for several years.
During his tenure as Fire Chief, the department worked with the city council and the rural fire board and applied for federal grant money which enabled them to replace or upgrade each major piece of equipment including: all of the trucks, the newest turn-out gear, cardiac defibrillators, the Jaws of Life, and M.A.S.T. trousers. He also devoted a considerable amount of time and energy upgrading the radio system so members could communicate while out of the vehicles. The last thing on his list of things he wished to accomplish before dying was to replace and relocate the fire station on the north edge of town. The new site enables members to be able to respond quicker when the state finishes the overpass over the railroad tracks and highway 30. This will eliminate emergency vehicles waiting for trains and traffic that often splits the community from North to South.

Neal Sahling

Neal died Tuesday, April 24, 2012, as a result of a car accident in Hastings.
He was a 10 year veteran of the Wood River Volunteer Fire Department. He valued his contribution to the community and always strived to give more. He was the Safety Officer, an EMT, CPR instructor and graduated from the National Safety Officer Program. He completed his Firefighter 1 certification and was also Wildland Red Card certified. He always wanted to do his best in whatever he set out to do. He cherished the great brotherhood he had with his fellow firefighters.