Woman picks up $405 restaurant tab for group of firefighters

LOS ANGELES -- A woman who was eating at a Denny's in Southern California picked up the $405 bill for a group of firefighters after they finished battling a massive blaze.

The City of Colton Fire Department shared an image of the receipt on Facebook Sunday, thanking the woman who paid for the meals of about 25 firefighters who had finished fighting a fire in the city.

"After all of the firefighters finished fighting the La Cadena Fire in La Loma Hills this evening, they were sent to Denny's for dinner. While eating, an anonymous woman told the Denny's staff that she wanted to buy all of the firefighter's meals," the Facebook post says.

"We are all honored to serve the citizens of our communities," it added.

In addition to picking up the tab, the woman bought $100 worth of dessert for the firefighters.

After all of the firefighters finished fighting the La Cadena Fire in La Loma Hills this evening, they were sent to...

Posted by City of Colton Fire on Saturday, July 8, 2017

Colton Fire Department spokesman Capt. Tom DeBellis told The San Bernardino County Sun that acts of kindness in the community are common, but much appreciated.

"It happens all the time, more so when we're on big fires. People just anonymously donate money to cover the bill. They want to do what they can to help. In a small community like Colton it happens quite frequently," he said.

In California, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico, crews were making progress against dozens of wildfires Tuesday.

In Southern California's Santa Barbara County, at least 3,500 people remained out of their homes due to a pair of fires. The larger of the two charred more than 45 square miles of dry brush and has burned 20 structures since it broke out. It was 45 percent contained. To the south a 17-square-mile wildfire that destroyed 20 structures is 25 percent contained. Crews were getting a break from rising humidity and light winds.

Authorities surveying the damage from a blaze in Northern California said Tuesday that at least 36 homes and 37 other buildings had been destroyed near the town of Oroville, about 150 miles northeast of San Francisco.

Residents had started to return home after fleeing a wildfire in the grassy foothills of the Sierra Nevada, about 60 miles north of Sacramento, but at least 4,000 were still evacuated. The blaze burned nearly 9 square miles and injured four firefighters. It was partially contained.

Schori said this year's conditions were similar to California's 1979 wildfire season, which came on the heels of a two-year dry spell and saw blazes blackening a total of 386 square miles of grass, brush and timber and caused more than $30 million in damage. However, that year's major fires didn't kick off until well into August, she said, as did the destructive 1992 blazes that followed a drought that started five years earlier.

Major downpours last winter pulled the state out of years of drought but also brought a layer of grass that early-summer fires are greedily feeding on.

"That creates faster moving fires, hotter fires, it carries fire much more readily," said Santa Barbara County fire Capt. Dave Zaniboni, whose department was battling two large wildfires.

Older, dried out trees and vegetation are especially dangerous for wildland blazes, but enough new and drying grass can provide links between such tinderboxes.

With the dense grass as the "carrier," the firefight becomes much more challenging because "you have to make sure the water is getting all the way down to the smoldering areas below," Schori said.  "It takes a lot more effort to extinguish grass fires."

In Colorado, crews were winding down the fight against a wildfire that temporarily forced the evacuation of hundreds of people near the resort town of Breckenridge. Firefighters built containment lines around at least 85 percent of the blaze.