As many Chetco Bar Fire evacuees straggled home for the first time in three weeks, scores of residents lined Highway 101 in Harbor during the firefighters’ shift changes Sunday to wave flags and signs thanking them for their efforts.
The firefighters, most of whom work 16-hour shifts for 14 straight days, seemed to appreciate the “Salute the Chetco Bar Fire Crews” activity, with many giving the crowd thumbs-up, honking horns, activating sirens and videotaping the long line of cheering citizens as they drove back to the fire camp on Oceanview Drive.
“It’s a nice thing to see at the end of a hard day’s work,” said Chris Queen of Colorado-based Mountain View Fire and Rescue, who was filling up his fire truck’s gas tank across the highway. “It’s pretty cool.”
Other firefighters said they’ve never seen such a community outpouring, both in support of those working the fire lines and residents helping each other.
“I wasn’t sure how many would show up, but it was a really good turnout,” said Brookings resident Allison Thomas, who ran with the idea of a noise parade, suggested by Gaylene Henderson of Brookings, neither of whom had to be evacuated.
“Little credit goes to me,” Thomas added. “I couldn’t have done it without all the people showing up — especially the morning crew, getting up that early.”
Appreciative residents waved and shouted during 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. shift changes as fire trucks, National Guard Jeeps and vans and other officials drove past. There was such a good turnout, Thomas announced Monday night that she hopes people will show up every Sunday at 6 to 7:30 p.m. and wave posters.
A Facebook post announcing the event had 380 shares, including one from a news organization in Sacramento, California. Oxenfre held a “kid’s happy hour” Sunday afternoon during which children could make signs and take them out to the highway.
The signs read: “You’re all heroes to us!” “You kick ash!” “Praying for your safety!”, “Our community appreciates you,” “You all rock!” and “Thank you for saving our dance studio.”
“One (firefighter) came over and shook a few of our hands; they had huge smiles on their faces,” Thomas said. “They were just as grateful for us as we are for them.”
She hoped some of the video taken by firefighters makes it to their families.
“We want to let their families know how much they are appreciated, lending their family members to help us,” Thomas said.