It was a party to be sure with live music, food and drinks at Triple S Ranch Saturday night, but the real reason people came together was to support the Mountain Volunteer Fire Department, and raise money for their needs.
The new chief of the department, Jeff Lemelin, who takes over for Loren Davis, thanked the crowd for coming and expressed an earnest call for opening up pocketbooks.
“I want to be honest with you guys a little bit here and let you guys know about some of our needs,” Lemelin said. “We charge $30 for this event and we take a loss on the ticket sales just to get you guys here. So, I would ask from the bottom of my heart that you do what you can to help us with these auction items or these raffle items.”
Before Lemelin made his heartfelt plea, Derek Webb challenged everyone to bid high and bid fast.
“(This party) is going to be an annual event, hopefully it’ll just grow and grow and grow,” Webb said, “and by the way bid heavily because you have to outbid me. I’m a big, heavy bidder. I wait right until the end and then I pounce, that’s my strategy.”
Webb owns Triple S Ranch and fought alongside Don Fowler, Webb’s neighbor and the assistant chief of the Mountain Volunteer Fire Department (MVFD) the night the Tubbs Fire broke out to save the ranch resort.
“We were very fortunate that we had great neighbors and we had a lot of workers and we were able to save everything, otherwise nothing would have survived,” Webb said. “As most of you know if you go down the street nothing is there. Unfortunately, we lost two other resorts. This is one of the oldest restaurants, one of the oldest ranches in Wine Country. So, it was really great that we could save it. Of course, fire we’re going to continue to have, and we want to obviously be able to support those people that can help us when there is fire.”
Included in the silent auction items were a ride to school in the MVFD fire engine, tote bags and wine by Calistoga-based Stellareese Collection, cases of wine by various wineries, original art such as a painting of an Native American by Ira Yeager, and an overnight stay at nearby Safari West.
Raffle items included a decorative potted plants, heart-shaped wine barrel rings, and the door prize garnered a lot of attention for its creativity, style, and the meaning behind it.
Lemelin and his wife, Jen, made the door prize – a wood-framed American flag with micro-lights. The stripes were made from “out of service wildland fire hoses,” said Jen. They were painted red and white, and the quadrant of the flag that holds the stars – which were white-painted wood – were painted dark blue. Jackson Pollock paint drizzles of red, white and blue completed the look.
The couple “enjoys making things together,” Jen said and love to repurpose “old junk” into art.
Both work full time outside of their volunteer work with MVFD. Jeff is a 20-year veteran firefighter in Novato, and Jen is an emergency nurse at San Francisco General Hospital.
A touching moment for the MVFD crew came when Calistoga residents Michelle and Dan Hickman presented the team with an artfully decorated framed photo of the fire department staff. The message on the back read, “Given to Mountain Volunteer Fire Department with grateful hearts for all you did for our community during the 2017 Tubbs Wildfire, and all you do for us every single day.”
The Hickman family lost their Calistoga home, which was located across the street from where the Tubbs Fire started on Bennett Lane. Michelle was, if not the first caller, one of the first to report the wall of flame that threatened their lives and took their home.
The amount raised from Saturday’s event was not available at press time.