Tuesday, September 22, 2009

News: La Canada Thank you Photo

(Photo - Seth Amitin/Valley Sun)

Hundreds showed up for the city of La Cañada's community "Thank you" post card, to be sent to the fire fighters across the country who helped battle the Station fire.

About 200 La Cañadans turned out Thursday evening to participate in a community photo shoot at Memorial Park. The photo will be printed and sent to firefighters across the country who aided in the fight against the Station fire.

The fire, which began on Aug. 26 near a United States Forest Service ranger station on Angeles Crest Highway just north of La Cañada, is the 10th largest fire in California since 1933. It has claimed two lives, destroyed homes in other communities and burned more than 250 square miles of land within the Angeles National Forest.

According to La Cañada High School PTA President Kathy Hernandez, the idea for a community thank-you photograph was the result of a Sept. 4 meeting of community leaders, during which La Cañada Flintridge Mayor Laura Olhasso and school officials, PTA members, business owners and residents brainstormed about ways to express the town’s gratitude for having been kept safe from harm.

“I’m incredibly grateful for the firefighters and other emergency workers that helped keep our city safe,” Hernandez said. “I’m also proud to be a member of a community that makes such an effort to appreciate the sacrifices that these brave people made to do so.”

Bill Martin, senior vice president of the Farmers Insurance Group of Companies and a resident of La Cañada, arranged for his company to provide the photographer. West Coast Arborists provided a 50-foot boom to elevate the photographer.

Many of the participants were children. Paradise Canyon Elementary fourth-grader Jeremy Herron held a large, hand-painted banner that said, “Thank you for keeping us safe.” He was accompanied by his mother, Yvonne, and the family’s pet dog, a Maltese named Lindsay.

“We are safe,” said Jeremy, a Boy Scout who is also active in local youth sports programs. “I wanted to thank the firefighters.”

Darcy Brakeman, a Palm Crest Elementary fifth-grader and a member of Girl Scout Troop 427, came to the photo shoot because “they saved our house.” When the Brakeman family evacuated, first-grader Callan Brakeman was able to pack a few favorite toys, including a stuffed bunny from her early childhood. Their mother, Kristen, attended the photo shoot with her girls. “I am grateful,” she said.

Ali Roth, an eighth-grader at LCHS 7/8, attended with a large group of her classmates. Roth said, “We got evacuated. I want to say thank you to the firefighters that saved our home and people’s lives.”

LCHS 7/8 eighth-graders Madelyn Merchant and Tracey Andrews felt the same. “I want to thank the firefighters for all the hard work they put into fighting the fire,” said Madelyn.

Tracey said, “It was nerve-wrenching for me and my friends. I want to say thank you.”

One young mother, Stephanie Hosford, brought her two youngest children, Naomi, almost 3, and 16-month-old Samantha, in a double stroller. Said Hosford, “I am in the Sagebrush area. The fire came so close to our house. I wanted to show my appreciation.”

Jodi Bruckel, a 30-year resident of the city, handed out fliers for the community “baby shower” for the unborn child of firefighter Arnie Quinones. Quinones, 34, and Los Angeles County Fire Department Capt. Ted Hall, 47, were killed after their pickup truck plunged 800 feet off a road near Mount Gleason. Donations may be left at Los Angeles County Fire Station No. 82 in La Cañada, Bruckel said. “Our lives will go on and we will rebuild,” she said, “but they are going to be affected forever.”

City Councilmember Greg Brown and Mayor Pro Tem Don Voss attended the event and also expressed their gratitude.

Mayor Olhasso said she was pleased with the turnout. “It’s wonderful that this many people have taken time out of their day to show their appreciation for the fire fighters and law enforcement who saved and protected our homes.”

Shortly before the photo shoot, Olhasso conducted a moment of silence in memory of firefighters Hall and Quinones.

And then, everyone smiled for the camera.

La Canada Valley Sun 17 September 2009

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