Mountain Community Gives Back to Firefighters
LAKE HEMET - Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom declared Riverside County under a State of Emergency. The fire has burned more than 27,000 acres and is at 25% containment, now the largest fire in California this year. Evacuation orders are still in place for Idyllwild, Fern Valley and pre-evacuation orders for Pine Cove.
While residents are struggling with the damage of the blaze, firefighters are hoping to prevent even more devastation. It's a dangerous job and residents are taking notice. "The only way to fight these kind of fires is with people on the ground,” says Garner Valley resident Karen Genet. Battling wildfires deep in the trenches means risking your life to save others. "I’ve been up here for a long time and the fires are very, very unpredictable,” says Genet.
With all the work left, fire officials say there is no shortage of amenities at the incident base, of Highway 74, to keep the crews energized. "The minimum the firefighters have available to them is 5,000 calories and it’s all you can eat. The facilities are set up to help with their safety providing shower, food and rest areas,” says fire information officer Rob Deyerberg.
The local community also wanted to provide help where they could. "We were looking for some way to give back to the community. People have donated and we have opened early, get them coffee and get them going. We're giving them free hot dogs throughout the day just to get them going,” says employee of the Lake Hemet Market Michael Lofton. Drawings from young children on the information board outside the market praise the risky work firefighters do. Messages of hope from residents keep them going. "Many of the firefighters are also from this area. Many communities like Hemet, it's wonderful when they help out as much as they can,” says Deyerberg.
Residents say they wouldn't have it any other way. "They're there for 9/11, for now, for all the major events. So we want to help them out as much as we can,” says Lofton. "It's absolutely incredible. This place would have been gone without all their help,” says Genet. Fire officials say they hope to have the fire at full containment by Friday, the 26th.