The tables were turned Monday. A firefighter from Southern California who helped fight Napa’s wildfires in October returned to say ‘thank you’ to the Napa community.
Until now, most of the thanks have gone in the other direction, with homemade signs all over the Napa Valley thanking the legions of firefighters who fought for more than a week to stop the devastating wildfires.
On Monday, firefighter/paramedic Scott Morton of the Montebello Fire Department spoke of the remarkable hospitality and generosity he and a crew of 22 men received while staying at the Napa River Inn in the Napa Mill complex in October.
“There were so many acts of kindness,” said Morton.
The crew, known as strike team 1284 Alpha, was fed meals, given coffee and treats, sandwiches, hot showers, laundry service and other accommodations.
The Strike Team was made up of 22 firefighters from five areas in Southern California: Montebello, Downey, Santa Fe Springs, Vernon and Compton.
“You made us feel appreciated and this is what kept us going” during their 13-day stay, he said. “We wanted to give something back after the fires.”
Morton then presented plaques from his group to thank the Napa Mill merchants and staff for their hospitality. Dozens attended the event, including officials from the Napa fire and police departments, Mayor Jill Techel and Supervisor Alfredo Pedroza.
Two larger plaques were presented to the Napa River Inn and Celadon restaurant featured patches from the five agencies and a helmet. The helmet included a fire shield, which is a particular honor, Morton noted.
Two other plaques were presented to Debbie Dever of the Vintage Sweet Shop and Toni Chiappetta of Sweetie Pies.
“The community and local businesses really stood out,” said Morton. “They took really good care of us.”
“They got it backwards,” said Harry Price, the owner of the Napa River Inn. Napans should be thanking them, he said.
The hotel and the Napa Mill “was only doing the right thing,” Price said. “We didn’t put the fire out.”
The firefighters did the hard work. “They went out there and risked their lives,” he said.
“They were the most wonderful group,” Dever said of the strike team.
Napa resident DJ Smith said he wanted to come to the presentation to show his support for the help from the strike team. “I’m just pleased all these guys showed up” to help fight the fires, he said.
“We all owe them a tremendous debt of gratitude,” said Westin Verasa General Manager Don Shindle.
“We are here to celebrate human kindness,” said Morton. “You are a strong community,” he said. “I was honored to be here to help.”
The need for such help continues.
During a phone interview on Tuesday morning, Morton noted that he was driving back to Southern California after his Napa visit. Two new wildfires, also spread by high winds, had already burned more than 50,000 acres combined in the southern part of the state.
“Here we go again,” he said.