Forest Service to ‘fill the boot’ for firefighters
Tahoe National Forest is asking for help to “fill the boot” on Sunday to raise money for the families of five firefighters killed in the Southern California arson fire that burned more than 40,000 acres, including 34 homes.
The San Bernardino National Forest firefighters died while fighting the blaze, which started 20 miles from Palm Springs on Oct. 26. All donations from Sunday’s fundraiser will go to the Wildland Firefighter Foundation to support the families of the deceased, with financial and emotional assistance.
The news of the firefighter deaths saddened U.S. Forest service personnel because “we are a pretty close-knit community,” said Jeanne Pincha-Tulley, Tahoe National Forest fire chief in Nevada City.
“This is a real shock for us,” Pincha-Tulley said. “We [fight fires] every year … we train for it.”
Five Tahoe National Forest engines, including an engine from the Truckee station, were sent Oct. 28 to the Esperanza Fire to relieve San Bernadino National Forest Service crews so they could attend Sunday’s memorial service for the firefighters, Pincha-Tulley said.
Rick Maddalena, with the Truckee Ranger District, said Forest Service staff view each other as partners, no matter where they are stationed. Sending the Truckee engine to Esperanza is “a visual representation of that comradeship,” he said.
“It’s very much a tradition when they’ve lost (firefighters)” to send engines, Maddalena said.
The “fill the boot” drive is a way for the community to show support for the fallen firefighters’ families, and a means for Forest Service personnel to heal from the traumatic events of the Esperanza Fire, Pincha-Tulley said.
Linda Ferguson, Truckee Ranger District prevention officer, said Forest Service personnel will be holding out boots in Truckee at Albertsons and the Gateway Shopping Center, located on Donner Pass Road, to collect donations. She said they will be in the shopping centers from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m.