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'It's Him': Mother Of Fallen Wildland Firefighter Helps Unveil Statue

By Jamie Leary

GOLDEN, Colo. (CBS4) - A group that helps families of fallen firefighters dedicated a new statue in Golden this week.

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The Wildland Firefighter's Foundation and families of the fallen were at Coors Brewery on Wednesday to thank the brewery for getting on board with the mission.

In four years, Coors raised more than $1 million for the foundation by donating proceeds from cases of Coors Banquet. The MillerCoors program "Protect Our West" is expanding to Colorado this summer.

"Colorado is where we got our start. We came out of the ashes of Storm King in 1994," said Burk Minor. "We've helped a lot of firefighters since then, but the tie for this, for Coors and Storm King, it couldn't be a more perfect fit because this is where we got our start."

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On Wednesday, as a "thank you' to MillerCoors, the WFF unveiled a stoic bronze statue of a firefighter that holds deep significance. Wednesday's guest of honor took the stage with a photo of the statue in her hand, and then peeled it back to reveal a picture of her son.

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Sandy Dunbar (credit: CBS)

"The statue as you can see is holding the tool and this (peels photo back) is a picture that hangs on my wall at home. It's him. He's in his Prineville hotshot uniform, and he is on the line. He's working," Sandy Dunbar said with a proud smile.

Doug Dunbar was 22 when he was killed in the Storm King Fire in Glenwood Springs. His mother has visited the site where he perished 14 times over the past 24 years. One for each of the firefighters who perished.

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"As soon as I hit the hill, it's all over. I see the crosses coming and then I just kind of lose it for a little while and re-create what was going on you know, in my mind," said Dunbar. "And then I get up there and I sit at Doug's cross for a while, think about him, talk to him. Check out all the little memorabilia that might be there."

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A picture of Doug Dunbar (credit: CBS)

In the years following Doug's death, the WFF not only helped Sandy and her family financially, it helped her emotionally.

"I was a single mom. I had the two teenage girls at home, and a little check would come or they'd pay for a flight or a room for me," she said.

It grew into a support network and then an annual event called Family Fire Weekend.

"We call it a safe place. A place where we can all go because we have all been through the same thing," Sandy said. "We don't have to be embarrassed about talking about our feelings. It's wonderful."

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For Sandy, the most important thing is that her son's legacy and others, who have died while protecting their communities, are never forgotten.

"One of the biggest things that Glenwood Springs brought up when this first happened was never forget. They have never forgotten. Colorado has never forgotten. The fire service has never forgotten," she said. "It's just the legacy of the firefighters and what good people they are and they shouldn't be forgotten and they're not."

LINKS: Wildland Firefighter Foundation | MillerCoors Protect Our West Campaign

Beginning this summer, for every case of Coors Banquet sold, MillerCoors will donate 25 cents to the foundation.

Wildfire Resources

- Visit's Living With Wildfire section.

Wildfire Photo Galleries

- See images from the most destructive wildfires (Black Forest, Waldo Canyon, High Park and Fourmile), the deadliest (Storm King) and largest wildfire (Hayman) in Colorado history.

Jamie Leary joined the CBS4 team in 2015 and currently works as a reporter for CBS4 News at 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. She couldn't imagine a better place to live and work and will stop at nothing to find the next great story. Jamie loves learning about and hearing from her fellow community members, so connect with her on Facebook or Twitter @JamieALeary.

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