A flood of grat­i­tude in wake of wild­fire

Thanks pour in for crews help­ing to pro­tect a small Sierra Ne­vada com­mu­nity.

Los Angeles Times - - CALIFORNIA - By Hai­ley Bran­son-Potts

QUINCY, Calif. — In his 42 years of fight­ing fires, Dan Mc­Cabe has not seen any­thing quite like the love that greeted hun­dreds of out-oftown fire­fight­ers who rolled into this small north­ern Si- erra Ne­vada com­mu­nity last week when a wild­fire got too close.

Chil­dren brought them Pop­si­cles in the park. There were “cook­ies by the dozen,” he said. Ev­ery­where they went, peo­ple of­fered them free food.

The mar­quee at the town movie theater read, “Thank you fire­fight­ers.” “Thank you” posters printed in the Feather River Bul­letin news­pa­per hung in busi­ness and home win­dows. A church sign asked God to bless the fire­fight­ers.

And a sign down the road read, “You guys kick ash!”

“I can’t be­lieve how nice these peo­ple are,” said Mc­Cabe, a cap­tain with the Mid­dle­town-based South Lake County Fire Pro­tec­tion Dis­trict.

Quincy has been on edge since July 29, when the Min­erva fire be­gan in the Plumas Na­tional For­est. When flames from spot fires reached Boyle Ravine, about half a mile from down­town, au­thor­i­ties is­sued a vol­un­tary evac­u­a­tion or­der for

neigh­bor­hoods south of the Plumas County Court­house. By Monday, the fire had scorched 4,307 acres and was 64% con­tained, with the vol­un­tary evac­u­a­tion or­der lifted.

Smoke filled the air in Quincy, but so, too, did grat­i­tude.

More than 1,800 fire­fight­ers came to this Gold Rush town to fight the fire — a huge in­flux for an area of about 4,200 peo­ple, where build­ings date to the 19th cen­tury.

The ho­tels are full; the restau­rants are packed.

The main streets — where log­ging trucks reg­u­larly haul tree trunks through town — have been filled with fire en­gines.

“It’s been crazy,” said Brooke Day­ton, work­ing the cash reg­is­ter at the 76 gas sta­tion, which was of­fer­ing free cof­fee, water and soda for fire­fight­ers and sell­ing Min­erva fire T-shirts to ben­e­fit the crews. The shirts have been fly­ing off the shelves, she said.

“They’re fight­ing re­ally hard to save our town,” Day­ton, 30, said of the fire­fight­ers. “This is a ma­jor thing here. In my 16 years here, it’s the clos­est fire has come.”

In the Quincy Pro­vi­sions bak­ery, candy store and cof­fee shop, fire­fight­ers filled ev­ery ta­ble Monday morn­ing.

The day af­ter the fire be­gan, there was a long line of fire­fight­ers in the busy shop. A woman walked in and gave co-owner Amy Carey her credit card and said to pay for every­one’s food and drinks. The day af­ter that, Carey said, a man came in and asked if she’d heard of the con­cept of “pay­ing it for­ward” and handed her an ad­di­tional $100 for the fire­fight­ers. And then a pas­tor came in with more money.

“It just keeps com­ing,” Carey said from be­hind the counter, where cus­tomers are greeted by lime-green walls, baked goods ga­lore and a “Straight Outta Quincy” sign.

Staff put up a so­cial me­dia hash­tag: #quin­cyis­s­weet on­fire­fight­ers. Money poured in, even from former res­i­dents who had not lived here in decades, Carey said. By Monday, about $2,500 had been raised, she said.

“In this com­mu­nity, if any­thing goes on, there’s a help­ing hand there, and every­one’s go­ing to make sure you have what you need,” Carey said.

Fire­fight­ers who had never been to Quincy were charmed and vowed to come back — hope­fully sans fire.

“Thank you, and see you on my next fish­ing trip,” one shouted to Carey as he walked out.

Sit­ting in Quincy Pro­vi­sions with a hot drink, sur­rounded by the fire­fight­ers tak­ing up all the ta­bles, Capt. Jack Thomas with the Santa Rosa Fire Depart­ment said he thinks re­mote moun­tain towns “un­der­stand more than other com­mu­ni­ties the risk of liv­ing in the wild­land-ur­ban in­ter­face.”

“I’ve been doing this a long time, and it’s amaz­ing how hos­pitable every­one here is,” said Thomas, who’s been a fire­fighter for three decades and spent the last eight days in Quincy, fo­cused on pro­tect­ing struc­tures.

Out­side the shop, a large ban­ner was signed by res­i­dents. “We love all you guys, and gals,” read one sig­na­ture. “Thanks, and re­mem­ber wet stuff on the red stuff.”

Hai­ley Bran­son-Potts Los An­ge­les Times

A SIGN at Quincy School, built in 1905, bears a mes­sage of ap­pre­ci­a­tion for fire­fight­ers bat­tling the Min­erva blaze, which started in the Plumas Na­tional For­est.

Hai­ley Bran­son-Potts Los An­ge­les Times

SMOKE FROM the Min­erva fire en­croaches on Quincy, which drew about 1,800 fire­fight­ers who were “fight­ing re­ally hard to save our town,” Brooke Day­ton says.

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