Nevada County firefighter honored for his efforts fighting Southern California blaze | SierraSun.com

Nevada County firefighter honored for his efforts fighting Southern California blaze

Matthew Pera
mpera@theunion.com

North San Juan Firefighter Shawn Olson takes a photo with parrots on a Southern California ranch he was working to protect from the Thomas Fire.

When he returned home to Nevada County last week, North San Juan Firefighter Shawn Olson was greeted with thank you letters and gifts from Southern California residents whose homes he’d helped protect from the Thomas Fire, which, as of Wednesday afternoon, was 89 percent contained.

One correspondence in particular stood out, Olson said. It was from a property owner whose home he remembered well.

While working with a crew to help stifle flames from a neighborhood in Ojai, Olson came across a house he admired.

“It was a really nice place,” he said.

In an effort to quickly protect the home, he moved a pile of flammable materials, including barbeque coals and lighter fluid, away from the house. In the process, Olson said, he made a mess. And he felt bad.

Olson left a note to the property owners explaining what happened.

“Sorry that we made a mess but we had to work fast!!!” the note said. “Many blessings and happy holidays!”

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Olson plucked an orange from a grove of citrus trees on the property and placed a slice of it in the hand of a Buddha statue near the home.

“I left an offering in your little statute,” he explained in the note.

The property owner sent Olson a card at the North San Juan fire station thanking him for his thoughtfulness.

Olson said the Thomas Fire was the largest and most active blaze he’s ever fought.

The fire had burned just over 280,000 acres and had destroyed more than 1,000 structures in Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties as of Wednesday afternoon, according to CalFire.