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Weekend Collection Bursts At The Bootstraps
Motorists filled the boot - and filled it and filled it - during the long holiday weekend, as firefighters in both Farmington and Escalon staged 'Fill the Boot for Burns' fundraisers.

Farmington firefighters started their campaign on Friday and continued for several hours at the intersection of Highway 4 and Escalon-Bellota Road Saturday, Sunday and again on Monday. Escalon firefighters set up shop at the main Highway 120-McHenry-Escalon Avenue intersection both Saturday and Sunday for the bulk of the daytime hours.

"Tentative total is $21,731.82," Farmington Fire Chief Conni Bailey said of the huge four-day take. "That's my count, it will be official once I take it to the bank."

That money was headed to the bank on Tuesday, just before The Times went to press. The goal, Bailey said, was set at $20,000 for the four-day period.

Even that goal was a bit high for this year, she said, given the economy, but the department was hoping to collect at least $12,000. That amount would put them over the $200,000 mark sent to the Firefighters Burn Institute for the years they have done the collection.

The nearly $22,000 collected puts Farmington "way over the $200,000" mark, Bailey said.

"That's not bad for 11 years," the chief added, smiling.

Friday's collection brought in about $5,500 and that was for just a few hours, from 1:30 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Motorists heading back and forth to the mountains for some holiday weekend fun are the main contributors, though plenty of local residents also donate. After donating, a flyer is given for drivers to place in their windshield to indicate they have already made their contribution.

"We had great weather and 99 percent of the people were kind," Bailey said. "People were giving us cup holders of change, it came in bits and pieces. Bikers came out of Lagorio's (grill) and gave ... there's a lot of really good stories that make up for the very few people that had no patience for the three seconds it takes to drop money in the boot while waiting at the stop sign."

Bailey said firefighters donated their time to stand at the intersection with their turnout boots, collecting the donations. All money goes to the Firefighters Burn Institute, with nothing taken out for overhead. Every penny, said Bailey, is passed on to the Burn Institute.

"The Burn Institute is appreciative of anything we can send them," she said. "We hoped for $20,000 because we always want to stay in that '20 grand' club."

Money donated helps run summer camps for burn-injured children, finances burn recovery services and scholarships, aids in putting on burn prevention programs, education and research and helps finance treatment and burn center support. The Firefighters Burn Institute was founded in 1973 by the Sacramento Area Fire Fighters, Local 522. It is a nonprofit, 501(c)3 charitable organization.

Though crews in Farmington were out a few hours less than last year, Bailey said donors were very generous.

"It restores my faith," she said.

In Escalon, the total topped out at more than $16,000 for the two days, with $10,262.60 collected on Saturday and $6,139.78 on Sunday.

"I know we've had good luck in the past and this year, we had good weather," noted Bob Rocha, one of the coordinators for the Escalon Fill the Boot effort. "It's amazing how generous people are to firefighters."

Rocha said nearly all firefighters were involved over the two days, with paid personnel, volunteers and reserves all taking part. His wife, Terri, and fire department administrative assistant Donna Fourre handled much of the money counting duties.

There were enough department members taking part that the collection didn't miss a beat when calls for service came in.

"They ran a few calls but we're always prepared for that," Rocha said of having enough staff to keep the collection going while on duty personnel responded to the weekend calls.

Firefighters Gerardo Preciado and Mike Rebensdorf worked with Rocha to coordinate the collection effort this year.

Saturday afternoon saw plenty of motorists willing to give, including several people from a West Valley Charter bus that pulled over to the curb, the riders stepping off to drop money in the turnout boot offered by reserve firefighter Wesley Helm.

Rocha said many local businesses also contributed to the success of the weekend Fill the Boot effort. Teichert Construction loaned two sign boards for the highway to alert motorists to the upcoming event, while Pizza Plus and D'Boni's each provided pizza. Coffee came from Starbucks, Escalon Public Works donated barricades to post banners, The Escalon Times provided pre-event publicity, with ice cream offered up by Hula's, and other donations from Escalon Chiropractic and McDowell Davis.

"I'm proud of all the guys for participating and the community," Rocha said. "It went really good."

Between the donations from Farmington and Escalon, the Firefighters Burn Institute will receive more than $38,000 from the Presidents' Day weekend collection.