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Boot Drive Tops $26,000
Collecting their third highest total ever, Farmington firefighters took in over $26,000 in donations during their four-day Fill The Boot effort over the long Presidents' Day holiday weekend.

"I'm stunned," said a tired but happy Farmington Fire Chief Conni Bailey late Monday night at the conclusion of the drive. "We're all just shocked ... I don't know what to attribute it to but the kindness and the generosity of the people going through."

Farmington has staged the holiday boot drive to benefit the Firefighters Burn Institute for the past several years and utilizes the high-volume traffic weekend to maximize the potential for donations. But this year, it surpassed even their expectations.

"Given the way the economy is, we felt if we could hit $20,000 this year, we would be happy," Bailey explained. "We had $19,700 as of Sunday night and we have never been at that level with one day still to go ... I thought I made a mistake so we recounted it all."

The total still came up the same, and Bailey knew then that they would surpass that $20,000 goal. The first day of the drive, Friday, saw volunteers staged at the intersection of Highway 4 and Escalon-Bellota Road in the rain, and that seemed to make people give more generously.

"People saw our guys and said things like 'you're out here in the rain, here, have some money'," Bailey said.

The first day's total take was just over $6,000 and kicked off a hugely successful drive.

Money raised goes to the Firefighters Burn Institute for is programs and services to aid burn victims and their families, as well as to help send young burn survivors to special summer camps. This year, Farmington resident Scot Rudd Jr. is getting treatment for burns he suffered in a January fire at his Oakwood Road home, adding to the poignancy of the drive for local firefighters.

"We have 21 volunteers and only one of them was not able to put some time in," Bailey said of the cohesive effort of the local department. "They came out at different times, helped each other out, it was a real good effort."

Bailey added that the Farmington Fire Department is situated in the perfect spot to capitalize on the drive, with the heavily traveled Highway 4 going right past their door. North and southbound traffic on Escalon-Bellota also was steady throughout the weekend. All required permits were on file - and in plain view - for the weekend and one Caltrans employee, related by marriage to Rudd, fire officials said, stopped by on Saturday to thank the firefighters personally for their efforts.

Among those spending some time collecting donations were new volunteers Anthony Munoz and Justin Martinez. Munoz has been with the department for about six months, Martinez just ahead of him at seven months. Both are Escalon High graduates.

Along with getting some on-the-job training over the past few months, both have enjoyed the various community activities the department is involved with as well.

"The Christmas party was a good one, we gave out presents to the kids, had homemade cookies," Munoz said.

Martinez said he is interested in a career in firefighting.

"At first it was about giving back to the community," he said of joining the department. "Now it's about a career, right now I'm at MJC studying fire science."

He hopes to continue on to the fire academy and was happy to help with the boot drive.

"We had a lot of firefighters come through, even firefighters from the Bay area," Bailey added of those traveling to and from the mountains for the holiday weekend. "We had one man, a doctor, come through early in the weekend and donate and when he came back through, he asked again what we were collecting for. We told him and he donated again, gave us a $100 bill."

Dollar bills, fives, spare change, it all added up to a huge donation for the Firefighters Burn Institute.

"All in all, we really didn't get any negative comments this year," Bailey said, noting that sometimes motorists don't take kindly to the drive.

When a donation is given, firefighters provide a flier that drivers can put on their dashboard, indicating they have donated and then they aren't asked again if they come back through the intersection later on in the weekend.

Highest total collected during the history of the drive in Farmington was $30,000 in 2008 and a little over $27,000 on another occasion. The $26,195 collected this year is the third highest.

That money was going to the bank on Tuesday to be recounted and the total made official. Then the check will be donated to the Firefighters Burn Institute to help support that organization.

"I'm just astounded," Bailey said. "People were so generous ... it was a great weekend."