Firefighter wins national award


July 10, 2019

Courtesy photo

Lt. Chet Chenault of the Clovis Fire Department is honored as the Veterans of Foreign Wars firefighter of the year Friday at the CFD's main station. Alongside Chenault, center, are Chief Mike Nolen and Quartemaster R. E "Bart" Bartosiewicz from VFW Post No. 3280.

CLOVIS - Chet Chenault thought it was nice to hear somebody nominated him to be the Veterans of Foreign Wars firefighter of the year. But after months of radio silence, he figured somebody else had won the state award.

"I'd been told a while back I had been nominated for it," Chenault said, "but that was January and I hadn't heard anything else about it."

He heard about it again Friday, and the surprise was much bigger. The lieutenant took not only the New Mexico award, but went on to earn the national title as well.

Chenault was honored at the fire station Friday, and will be honored again at Thursday's Clovis city commission meeting. He has been with the department for seven years, with Monday the anniversary of his join date.

The nomination pool is open to any individual who serves in a county, state or federal unit tasked with firefighting. Candidates must be recognized by colleagues or those they serve, demonstrate consistent excellence in performance of duties and show dedication and growth in the profession.

Clovis Fire Chief Mike Nolen said almost all of the department participated in the nomination process, and as confident as they were in Chenault's abilities they were shocked he'd beaten out thousands of nominees -generally about 10,000 per year.

"We were absolutely surprised," Nolen said. "Nationally? That's a lot of people to go against, reputations and experience levels to contend with. And ours took it."

Nolen said he was already pleased Chenault had won the state award, because it meant he'd already beaten out nominees from Albuquerque, Las Cruces and other larger departments.

As to why he won, Chenault said, "What they told me is whoever nominated me made a pretty good case for me."

The nomination, Nolen said, was done with the same professionalism that Chenault brings to the department.

"The individuals listed out his strengths and his time and service. It was very factual, and an outstanding nomination. It's his love for the service (that sets him apart), without a doubt. Chet is all in. He's not only a family man, but he is 100 percent fire department."

The award doesn't carry any financial benefits for Chenault or the department; just a certificate and plaque presented in the department he joined because it's just something Chenaults do. His brothers Chance and Chay also work at CFD, and his father Darwin is retired from the Portales Fire Department.

"I wanted to do coaching and teaching," Chenault said. "After a year of college, I decided to change things up. It's what both of my brothers were doing. It's what my dad was doing. I gave it a try and I've loved it ever since."


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