For those of us who hold the Wood River Valley in a special place in their hearts, there really aren’t enough superlatives to describe how we feel about the firefighters who worked so hard to protect this one-of-a-kind place earlier this month.
According to Vicki Minor, Director of the Wildland Firefighter Foundation, the affinity and admiration we hold for the heroes of the Beaver Creek Fire is reciprocated. Following Sunday night’s barbecue and concert at the River Run Plaza to honor and thank the firefighters, Minor received feedback unlike any she has ever heard.
“A lot of emotional healing started for our people at the base of Bald Mountain this weekend,” Minor said during a phone interview from her headquarters in Boise. “For this community to turn around after such a stressful experience and give tribute to our wildland firefighters … it was like nothing we’ve ever experienced before. I don’t know if you know what your tribe up there did for our tribe.”
Minor explained it’s been a particularly deadly and tragic wildland firefighting season, with 32 valiant firefighters lost. “I deal with death and tragedy and this was a very healing experience,” she said, “we’ve never been treated so well.”
Sunday evening’s events invited all firefighters and their families to enjoy a full western barbecue, drinks and entertainment, courtesy of Sun Valley. “The food was amazing. The crowd was amazing. It was a night to remember,” Minor said. “No one could believe Sun Valley and community there were doing all of this for them.”
According to Minor, the Wildland Firefighter Foundation is also amazed by the monetary support of the Wood River Valley. “The money hasn’t stopped rolling in,” she said. “The generosity of this community is unparalleled.” Monies raised at the special presentation of Sun Valley On Ice Saturday night, at the barbecue Sunday night, as well as contributions coming directly to the Boise office totaled more than $30,000 as of Monday afternoon. As we spoke, Minor exclaimed, “I just opened another $2,500 check from Sun Valley.”
Many contributions were not large, but were no less meaningful to the Wildland Firefighter Foundation. During the ice show Saturday night, for instance, many children put a handful of small bills into the collection jar, one explaining that is was tooth fairy money he wanted to give to the heroes.
Every donation, no matter how large or small, counts. “This money will help so many firefighters and their families in an immediate, tangible way,” Minor said.
One big check delivered on Sunday evening came from Cox Communications. In addition to donating $5,000 to the Wildland Firefighter Foundation, Minor said Cox also provided an invaluable service to the fire teams at the height of the crisis. Within 24-hours of the creation of the Incident Command Post, the local team of the communications company moved in to provide wireline Internet connections. This served not only to allow incident managers to get out incredibly timely information about the fire, it also served another critical purpose.
“In this very scary fire season, families quickly get worried when they don’t hear from their firefighter,” Minor explained. “What Cox did in this case was give the more than 2,000 firefighters at the camp the ability to easily call home which was invaluable.”
Guy Cherp, Vice President of Operations at Cox, who presented the check Sunday night said, “Cox was honored to provide a means for firefighters to communicate with loved ones.” He continued, “It was impressive to work with the great people fighting the fire, which includes our Wood River Valley firefighters. Cox is deeply grateful and appreciative of the firefighters putting their life on the line to protect our community and we were so moved by their heroic efforts that we wanted to support them.”
“The fire season isn’t over yet,” Minor said, “but Sun Valley’s response to our people made the rest of the journey for these people so much better. We saw a whole community come together to take care of each other and to take care of us. This was medicine for the firefighters’ souls.”