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'I love helping people '

David Cheely is a man who truly enjoys helping people.

It's something he's done all of his life.

"I wouldn't know any other way," said Mr. Cheely, a Ranger 1 with the Georgia Forestry Commission's McDuffie-Warren Unit, who recently celebrated 25 years of service. "I love helping people. It's something I've done for as long as I can remember."

Unlike some people, Mr. Cheely doesn't bask in the limelight. He rather prefers staying in the background to help.

Mr. Cheely, who makes his home in the Mesena area of McDuffie County, is a 1978 graduate of Thomson High School. He also has served as a certified volunteer firefighter with the Warren County Fire/Rescue Service for the past three years. Prior to serving as a volunteer in the neighboring county, however, Mr. Cheely served as a volunteer firefighter in McDuffie County.

"I worked as a volunteer firefighter in McDuffie County for more than 30 years," said Mr. Cheely during a recent interview with The McDuffie Mirror . "I've always tried to help people any way that I could."

Extending helping hands to those in need comes easy for Mr. Cheely. The same could easily be said of his brother, Larry Cheely, who serves the City of Wrens as fire chief.

"It's something that just grows on you," said David Cheely in reference to helping those in need. "I tremendously enjoy helping people. I guess you could say it's my calling."

Mr. Cheely recently was presented a certificate for his 21/2 decades of dedicated and loyal service to the Georgia Forestry Commission. Making the presentation was Hal Sharpe, Mr. Cheely's boss.

"He's a good one," said Mr. Sharpe of his valued employee. "He's a big asset to our unit and to the people we serve in McDuffie and Warren counties."

Mr. Cheely began his career with the state in January 1985 after having been a heavy equipment operator for many years.

"I started out as a patrolman, assigned to the Jefferson County Forestry Unit in Louisville," explained Mr. Cheely. "I was fortunate to get to come back home after just eight months. It normally took a year or more back then before a person could get assigned to their home unit."

After living in Louisville those months, "I was glad to get back home to Mesena," he said.

Since then, Mr. Cheely has grown to love his job with the state forestry commission.

"I love it; I really do," he said. "It got a hold of me like no other job -- no bones about it."

Having been a heavy equipment operator for many years, Mr. Cheely said he really wasn't looking for a career when he actually landed the state job.

"I was just looking for something with some insurance benefits since I had gotten married and had a baby," he recalled.

Today, Mr. Cheely, now divorced, has two grown children. They are Rita and Daniel Cheely.

He still resides in the Mesena area with his girlfriend, Nicki Thigpen, who works with the Warren County Emergency Medical Services and serves as public relations officer of the Warren County Fire/Rescue Services. Mr. Cheely and Ms. Thigpen stay busy all the time helping others and raising cattle and horses.

One of the main reasons he enjoys his job so much with the state forestry commission is because he gets to fight fires -- sometimes big ones.

"It's an adrenalin rush," he admitted.

Though sometimes a little scary, Mr. Cheely said,

"I like battling big fires. I'm comfortable up next to it. I like it when it's just me and the fire out there."

The biggest fire he's ever fought as a bulldozer operator was the one in Waycross a few years ago. The fire burned hundreds of acres of forest and made national news for several weeks.

Mr. Cheely had three tours there. Each tour lasted 14 days or two weeks.

"It was a fuel-driven fire," he explained. "It seemed like it would never end."

As a trained firefighter and rescue person, Mr. Cheely often has stared death in the face. Though sad as it is, he handles it like a professional.

"Death is a way of life," said Mr. Cheely. "That's something I learned a long time ago."

In rescue operations, he always gives it his best.

"You do the best you can do and that's all you can do in any emergency situation," said Mr. Cheely.

"You give your best effort every time. Sometimes it works and sometimes, it doesn't."

Web posted on Thursday, June 24, 2010

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