Illinois workers on their way to fire-devastated area in California get heroes’ welcome in Nebraska

Illinois workers on their way to fire-devastated area in California get heroes’ welcome in Nebraska
Rachael Heglin helps Jack Hinson, Ronnie Creek and Bryce Bryan to food at Quality Inn & Suites on Tuesday evening. The men are part of a group of 43 tree trimmers and power company workers traveling from Illinois to Paradise, California, to help restore power and clean up after the devastating fires there. GEORGE HAWS/WORLD-HERALD NEWS SERVICE

NORTH PLATTE, Neb. — A crew from Illinois that’s headed to help out in fire-ravaged California got a hero’s welcome Tuesday night in North Platte.

Brenda Christensen, a front desk clerk at Quality Inn & Suites, was the catalyst for the warm welcome for the workers.

The group of 43 tree trimmers plans to help with restoration after the fire damage in Paradise, California. The crew stopped in North Platte on its way west.

Jack Hinson said the group works for Ameren power company and Wright Tree Service in Illinois and expects to be gone from home for four to six weeks. Some of them, including Hinson, are also volunteer firefighters.

The workers are responding to a call for help from Pacific Gas and Electric Co. in California. The crew will cut and remove trees from power lines and perform other tasks to restore power and clean up.

Christensen said she was “just making another room reservation” for the crew and “it ended up being so much more.”

She teamed up with other hotel employees — Austin Priest, director of sales; general manager Teresa Riley; and front desk manager Maurita Olguin — to get the word out about the visitors. The hotel employees used Facebook, email and phone calls to assemble a welcoming party.

Local people who came to greet the guests included firefighters and seven members of the Rockin Paws Therapy Dogs club who came with their dogs. Many local businesses donated food.

Christopher and Jessica Pavlik were there with their children, Kadyn, 10, Iliana, 9, and Marcus, 6.  The family brought homemade jellies and pickles and other goodies. Marcus came dressed in a firefighter costume.

“This kind of thing makes my heart happy,” Christensen said.

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