Nextel Communications said Thomas Murray of Tinley Park, Ill., won first prize, worth $1000, in the company’s Wireless Winners contest. Murray, a communications officer for his local volunteer emergency agency, won in the Public Safety/Emergency Services category. He received a $500 American Express Gift Cheque and a $500 credit on his Nextel bill.

Participants were required to submit essays describing how they use the carrier’s services. Murray’s submission detailed how he used Nextel’s push-to-talk service after the local 911 system went down to communicate with police and fire officials until a backup radio system was established. Murray said he was able to use Nextel’s service for five hours to respond to emergencies.

In other news, Nextel said it has expanded its footprint into several areas in Southern Virginia.