The recent wildfires that filled the skies in Vista and Oceanside with smoke and ash created long days for our Vista fire fighters. These were physically difficult days and very demanding on them and their families. So here we came to the next to last Friday of the year and what do you think our brave fire fighters were doing with their time off? Well, I found them out on two of Vista’s busiest intersections working to “Fill the Boots”.
I didn’t get to see all of them because they were working in two hour shifts. From 6 am until 10 am they greeted the motorists waiting for signal lights to change at Melrose/Hacienda and Vista Village Drive/ Santa Fe. Wearing their fire-fighting helmets and bright yellow vests they waved posters and held up boots. “Fill the Boots” was the order of the day. Fill the boots with cash!
Photos by Pat Murphy
Captain Sam Craig told me that this was a county wide effort involving some 20 Fire Departments across San Diego. He estimated that 35 to 40 off duty Vista Fire Fighters were participating in the “Fill the Boots” campaign in Vista this morning. I watched as Fire Fighter Jeff from Station 6 was waved over by a motorist who wanted to help “Fill the Boot”. Hardly before Jeff could raise up the boot, the motorist had his window down and was thrusting some green currency out the window.
Observing the activity at both locations I was impressed with the generosity of the early morning commuters. It was a chilly morning and most people were driving with their windows rolled up. As the windows quickly lowered, the currency that was thrust out to the waiting fire fighters consisted mostly of tens and twenties. A few five dollar bills but hardly any singles. The fire fighters didn’t care how much you gave. They always gave the same heart felt and hearty “Thank you!” to every donor.
The donors were of all ages and walks of life. I saw a LIFT driver without passengers offer a contribution to the fire fighter’s black boot. Two gardeners in an old pickup truck quickly dug into their pockets to give to the “Fill the Boots” endeavor. Young, old, students, businessmen and women, construction workers, and you name it. They all took a few seconds to pull money out from purses and pockets. Few did it silently. “Thank you for what you do” and “God bless you” were common utterances from the morning travelers.
Fire Fighter Matt Botz from Station 2 in Vista is the Charity Chairman for the VFFA (Vista Fire Fighters Association). He wanted to make sure I told my readers that this was just one example of the charitable work the fire fighters that protect us do all year long. This past year the men and women of VFFA raised funds for the Burn Institute, a young cancer victim, and a Tri-City nurse. Over $40,000.00 was raised and given to charitable causes in our community. They also collected toys for the Vista Boys and Girls Club.
Today Matt and his fellow fire fighters were enduring the finger numbing early morning temperature to “Fill the Boots” for one of their own. Unless you were completely ignoring the television and big box news publications (which isn’t all that bad an idea), you are probably aware that a young fire fighter from Escondido, Cory Iverson, lost his life while fighting the Thomas fire in Ventura. All the “Fill the Boot” funds collected this chilly Friday morning have gone directly to Iverson’s wife Ashley and their children (Their 2 year old daughter and a soon to arrive baby). Vista Fire Fighter, Matt, who has two children, said that when something like this happens, “it causes us to evaluate what it is we do and how it affects our loved ones”.
I’m sure those reflections on the danger of their jobs and the toll it takes on their families is part of the reason the Vista Fire Fighters were using their precious free time to “Fill the Boots”. When they are at work they are covering 36.5 sq. miles that includes the City of Vista (19 sq. miles and a Fire District of 17.5 sq. miles.) At the same time, they participate with CAL Fire in the statewide effort to combat numerous wild fires. Operating from six strategically located fire stations, it is the daily responsibility of the Vista Fire Department to provide Public Safety and Fire Protection to over 115,569 residents.
The provided services include fire-fighting, rescue, hazardous materials incident responses, EMT and Paramedic level emergency medical, and emergency transport. Additional services include fire personnel training and community disaster preparedness. Fire prevention activities consist of inspection, code compliance, community protection planning, public education and weed hazard abatement.
With all this on their plates the Vista Fire Fighters still conduct charity programs and support community activities throughout the year. They not only “Fill the Boots” but they do what they always do… They care about Vista.
Donations can be made to the Cal Fire San Diego Fire Fighters Benevolent Fund, 2650 Lamacha Rd., Suite 147, El Cajon, CA 92019.