Los Banos fire crews help Arizona victims

cpride@losbanosenterprise.comJuly 16, 2013 

— Members of the Los Banos Fire Department are hoping the community will help them help the families of 19 elite firefighters who died battling an Arizona blaze last month.

The department is participating in a fill-the-boot-style fund-raiser to defray funeral costs and related expenses for the Prescott, Ariz., Fire Department Granite Mountain Hotshots. The wildland firefighters died attempting to shelter in place while battling a wildfire June 30.

The Los Banos department is collecting donations at Fire Station No. 1, 333 Seventh St., until the end of July. The money will go to the Wildland Firefighter Foundation and the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation.

The Hotshots' story has garnered national attention and reminded many of the dangers of the job.

"There is a brotherhood among firefighters. Our guys go out and help with wildland fires. This could have happened to any of us," Fire Chief Chet Guintini said. "It's always in the back of our minds."

He said the idea for the fund-raiser began in the state Office of Emergency Services. He said Los Banos' section, District 5, wants to be the group that raises the most money.

The department has a modest start. The group debuted its fund-raising effort at the Los Banos Chamber of Commerce's Old-Fashioned Fourth of July celebration, but only $96 was collected.

Guintini said that he believes Los Banos will embrace the cause.

"People want to help, not just firefighters," he said.

A memorial service was held for the 19 members of the Hotshots team a week ago.

Los Banos Enterprise reporter Corey Pride can be reached at cpride@losbanosenterprise.com or (209) 388-6563.

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