In November, a photo went viral of Kern County firefighters buying Target gift cards for Camp Fire victims.
The four firefighters–Andrew Duitsman, Elliot Reyna, Nic Hanson, and Tanner Renz–from Edison’s Station 45 spent 12 days in Butte County. They battled flames they said were the worst they’d seen in their careers.
“This is definitely the most destructive and devastating fire that I’ve ever been on,” said Station 45 engineer Elliot Reyna.
A Target employee near Chico spotted the men spending $2,000 on gift cards for those displaced by the fire.
“(It was) a way for us to just give back because we had that sense of we need to be doing more–and not just fighting the fire like we normally do. But how can we help these people who are hurting so badly?” said Station 45 captain, Andrew Duitsman.
On their days off, they ultimately gave away more than 200 gift cards.
“There were even people when we would give them the gift cards that said, ‘no, I don’t need this. Find somebody else that needs it more than I do,'” Duitsman said.
The firefighters’ actions sparked a cycle of gratitude.
‘Some people had lost everything and they were still coming out to help out the firemen in some way and give them socks, and try and buy us coffee, or whatever they wanted to do to try and help us,” said Nic Hanson, a Station 45 firefighter.
People who had nothing left told them their generosity meant everything.
“I think for us, this is why we signed up for the job. We didn’t do it for the thanks,” Duitsman said. “We do it so we can make a difference in individual’s lives on a daily basis.”