March, 1, 2006

For their first time out, things couldn't have gone better.

Escalon firefighters manned the intersection at Highway 120 and McHenry Avenue for a total of about 13 hours between Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 25 and 26 for their first try at the "Fill the Boot for Burns" effort on behalf of the Firefighters Burn Institute.

Saturday weather was picture perfect, with sunny skies and highs topping out near 70 degrees. Sunday was cooler and cloudy, with firefighters packing it in just as heavy rain started to fall at mid-afternoon.

"It went well," said Escalon acting Fire Chief Terry Pinheiro. "Saturday was very nice, we were there from 9 a.m. to about 4 p.m. and we were there again Sunday from about 10 a.m. to 4 p.m."

Hours were longer than originally anticipated, with enough volunteers turning out to solicit the donations in the traditional turnout boots worn by firefighters. And the weather cooperated for the better part of the two days.

"It started to drizzle at about 1 p.m. Sunday and they called it off about 4 p.m. Sunday, when it was raining pretty good and safety was starting to be a factor," added Pinheiro. "But we had no problems whatsoever."

When the total was added up, the two-day effort brought in more than $23,000. Money will be sent off to the Firefighters Burn Institute to help finance a number of programs ranging from an Adult Burn Survivor Recovery Retreat to Firefighters Kids Camp For Young Burn Survivors.

Two-Day Boot Collection Nets Over $23,000
Escalon firefighter Cassidy Bohannon, left, and volunteer Ryan Empie get in some time counting the cash as part of the "Fill the Boot for Burns" effort hosted by the Escalon Fire Department over the weekend. More than $23,000 was collected over two days and will benefit the Firefighters Burn Institute.

Marg Jackson/The Times 

"We're in the ballpark at $23,000-plus," said Pinheiro. "We did not set any goals since this was our first time."

But, said Pinheiro, officials are extremely pleased with the collection.

"We made some adjustments in the middle," he added of tinkering with firefighters' approach to getting donations from motorists.

A huge, brightly painted turnout boot dangled high overhead Highway 120 and signs along the route alerted motorists to the fund drive ahead. If they had to stop for the red light, firefighters sought donations in the regulation turnout boots. All donations, from loose change to large bills, were gratefully accepted.

Motorists were given an informational pamphlet about the Firefighters Burn Institute, featuring a brief history and detailing its programs and services to the Northern California area. Stickers were provided for children and Pinheiro said motorists were generally good-natured about the request for cash.

"We had nine or 10 volunteers out there each day," Pinheiro added. "It just went very well."

Meanwhile, the search continues for a new fire chief for the department, and a professional panel met with prospective candidates for interviews on Monday, Feb. 27. A community panel was slated to meet those same candidates and then recommendations will go to the fire district board for consideration.

Still, officials said, selection of a new chief is likely at least a few months away.