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Thanks, and Here's Clean Socks

September 09, 1987|From a Times Staff Writer

HAYFORK, Calif. — "Are people avoiding you? Do you smell?"

These are hardly questions one would kindly pose to strangers, particularly strangers who may have just saved your house.

But the neighborly folks of Hayfork, a farm town of 2,500 about 75 miles southwest of Redding, are asking those very questions in a tongue-in-cheek poster that advertises a new laundry service for the more than 2,000 sweaty, smoky firefighters battling wildfires throughout Trinity County.

In appreciation of the firefighters' successful efforts to keep the flames out of Hayfork and several other remote communities in the Trinity Alps, area residents have offered to wash the firefighters' personal laundry for free.

"We were all looking for a way to pay all these wonderful firefighters back," Darlene McMahon said. The dozens of hand-lettered "thank you" signs posted around town just didn't seem enough.

Judy Jaegel, a teachers aide, could not think of a way to show the town's gratitude until her 15-year-old daughter, Jennifer, suggested that she offer to wash some of the fire crews' clothes.

The firefighters were delighted with the idea, and the washing offer quickly grew to involve 78 local women, as well as a number of men to haul the laundry around town and help staff the special laundry booth in the fire camp at the county fairgrounds.

Ernesto Hurtado, a firefighter from Arizona, said: "This is great; it really shows the support of all the people here, and we appreciate it. In times past, we just had to wait and wear the same clothes and, well, be dirty."

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