Grateful Malibu thanks firefighters

MALIBU, CALIF. — MALIBU, Calif. -- Grateful Malibu residents gave weary firefighters free showers, steak dinners and lots of gratitude yesterday.

Hand-painted signs on bedsheets billowed "thanks" on the day 900 crews from around the state got their first rest after a week fighting Southern California fires.


"It's just been incredible -- the reaction from people," Orange County firefighter Tyrone Ganoe said, posing for a picture in front of a sign directed at his unit.

Mr. Ganoe and his colleagues from the El Toro station saved six $1 million mansions on Big Rock, a ridge above the Pacific Coast Highway.


As fire closed around their two 500-gallon tankers and water ran low, they found a swimming pool to supplement the supply.

"The pumps had gone out on the hydrants," said Bob Becker. "That pool is the reason we could save those houses."

Wednesday night, the oceanfront Charthouse restaurant in Malibu opened its doors to them, serving slabs of steak and rice pilaf as thanks.

At the Topanga General Store, a bulletin board with messages inquiring about missing pets and displaced friends -- and even an appeal for fire footage from "I Witness Video" -- had scrawled in its center, "We love you, firefighters."

Yesterday, firefighters still were dousing hot spots left from the fire front that roared through the canyon's state park.

"People have been really nice, thanking us and all -- nice for California, that is," said Shawn Olguin, 20, a New Mexico firefighter with the Bureau of Indian Affairs. "They've been bringing us things."

Louise Stange, whose home in Bouquet Canyon above the Pacific Coast Highway was destroyed, still was so impressed with the San Jose firefighters in her neighborhood, she brought them a treat the next day.

"I went to a friend's house and baked them a pie," she said. "They tried so hard; I really appreciate that."


The gratitude stunned members of the U.S. Forest Service at Klamath National Forest at the Oregon border, who didn't expect such nice treatment.

"This is great. They give us the thumbs up and thank us for all we do," said Tammy Woodarczak. "Where we live they flip us off. We're the cops of the forest. We burn down their marijuana plantations."