Friday, May 25 , 2018, 2:01 pm | A Few Clouds 66º

 
 
 
 

Central Coast Firefighters to Offer On-the-Spot Aid to Fire and Disaster Victims

When firefighters answer the call in a fire or disaster, their jobs don’t end when the fire is out — often they find themselves comforting families who have lost everything. Firefighters always wish they do more. Now they can.

Supplying Aid to Victims of Emergency (SAVE) makes it possible for local firefighters to give on-the-spot aid to families and individuals who suffer substantial property loss in a fire or a major disaster, like an earthquake or flood. Created and funded by the nonprofit California Fire Foundation, SAVE provides departments with Mastercard gift cards that can be activated at the scene, allowing disaster victims to get a hot meal, buy some clothes or maybe find a place to stay the night.

“Firefighters do what we do because of a desire to serve,” said Lou Paulson, chair of the California Fire Foundation and a retired Contra Costa firefighter. “By offering SAVE cards to those who have lost so much, firefighters are able to continue providing comfort and support after the fire is out.”

The Santa Barbara City and Ventura County fire departments are among 30 departments statewide that have joined the SAVE partnership. The $100 Mastercard SAVE cards are carried by incident commanders to residential fire and disaster calls. If the occupancy loss is 25 percent or more of total value, a SAVE card can be activated right at the scene.

“When someone loses their home in a fire or disaster, they’re devastated,” said Patrick McElroy, chief of the Santa Barbara City Fire Department. “Through the SAVE program, we are hopeful that we can offer immediate assistance in getting through those first hours after a disaster.”

“In a major fire or disaster, people often are leaving their homes with nothing but the clothes on their backs,” added Tony Pighetti, president of Santa Barbara City Firefighters Local 525. “They may have lost all their cash or credit cards. SAVE is about giving those families a hand getting through the worst night of their lives.”

SAVE cards were issued to California fire departments in late August, following a successful test of the program in the Sacramento area. To date, more than 45 families touched by tragedy have been helped through the program.

“Our firefighters already make a difference by virtue of the risks they take on the job,” Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider said. “With SAVE, they are also helping victims in our community take a small step toward rebuilding their lives. I’m proud that our city is one of those that have stepped forward to offer this aid, and I commend the California Fire Foundation for making SAVE available.”

SAVE is funded by the California Fire Foundation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit foundation dedicated to supporting fallen firefighter families and their communities. Most of the donations to the Foundation come from Cailfornia firefighters themselves. Corporate support for SAVE comes from a grant from Chevron. No taxpayer dollars are used.

“We’ve all been in those situations where a family is standing outside in a daze as their lives go up in flames,” said Chris Mahon, president of Ventura County Professional Firefighters Association Local 1364. “We can’t restore all they’ve lost, but a SAVE card can help them through those first difficult 24 hours, and maybe help them feel a little less lost and alone.”

"The men and women working at the Department's 32 firehouses consider the residents of Ventura County to be their neighbors," added Mark Lorenzen, chief of the Ventura County Fire Department. "SAVE gives us a chance to provide some comfort and to let our neighbors know that we're there for them."

The foundation continues to raise funds and seek additional sponsorships to bring SAVE cards to more communities and, eventually, increase the face value of the cards. Individuals interested in contributing can go to SAVE.cafirefoundation.org.

— Carroll Wills represents the California Fire Foundation.

 

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