By Mary O’KEEFE
On Tuesday Glendale firefighters were presented letters of appreciation that were written, and drawn, by students from Crescenta Valley schools and the first graders in teacher Lindsey Johnson’s class at R.D. White Elementary School.
During the height of the Station Fire, Johnson was driving through her Crescenta Valley neighborhood and her thoughts turned to how children must have been perceiving the fire and its aftermath.
“I grew up in Crescenta Valley, and I could see the flames and I just thought of what kids may be thinking,” she said.
When classes began, after a three day delay due to the fire, she contacted all the Crescenta Valley schools and invited them to write letters thanking Glendale firefighters for protecting their schools and their homes.
The students’ response was overwhelming with 780 cards of thanks being created with colorful pictures and written appreciation.
“Firefighting is cool,” said first grader Francisco Bernal.
He and his fellow classmates could hardly remain seated and all had huge smiles across their faces as Battalion Chief Greg Godfrey and several of his firefighters walked into Johnson’s classroom on Tuesday to receive the cards.
Johnson’s classroom was decorated with mobiles hanging from the ceiling. On them were the words, “Fairness and Responsibility.” This was the theme that Johnson had highlighted with her outreach letter writing campaign. It was also an attitude students displayed as they presented the firefighters with the letters.
Johnson also had a unique perspective on firefighters, what they face when fighting a blaze like the Station Fire and how important it is to have the community rally behind their efforts and show its support.
“This is my favorite firefighter, my dad,” Johnson told the class as she hugged her father, Battalion Chief Martin Johnson of the Pasadena Fire Department.
Martin was one of the unified incident commanders during the Station Fire. A Crescenta Valley resident, Martin was out fighting the fire when his wife got the call to evacuate. He knew how close the fire came to homes and how local schools had been affected.
“You can tell that some of these children were close to the fire. Some had to be evacuated from their homes,” he said after reading some of the letters.
Although the fire had passed and things were getting back to normal, the first graders still remembered the fire and how it looked from their homes.
“We saw [the fire]. It was so close; it was like a volcano,” said first grader Riley Williams.
“And it was a big cloud of smoke,” added Sophia Gerard.
While students handed the letters to the firefighters it was at times difficult to tell who was more excited, the kids or the firefighters.
Some of the first graders were a bit timid as they walked up to present the letters. One by one the firefighters knelt down to the kid’s level and shook their hand as they received the letters.
“This is a great opportunity to interact with the kids,” Godfrey said.
He added he wants the children to feel safe when they see a firefighter and know that they are there to protect them.
After the last of the letters were handed out the kids went back to their seats.
“I want to thank you [kids] and your teacher. We really appreciate this,” Godfrey said.
Martin couldn’t help but praise his daughter and her well behaved class. He added his family had a long line of teachers and that he was proud that his daughter continued that tradition.
“It took a lot of work for her to contact all the schools and to get the letters. It meant a lot. I am very proud of her,” he said.