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West Valley Focus

TOPANGA : Firefighters Honored by Thankful Students

November 05, 1994|KAY HWANGBO

During the Topanga Canyon fires last year, Calmont School became home for numerous firefighters. After hours on the fire line, they made their way to the private school to eat meals, take showers and sleep in classrooms.

It was only for a few days, but the firefighters and school officials forged a bond that has lasted.

On Friday, the private preschool and elementary school held a luncheon one year after the fires to show the firefighters their appreciation for saving the school and many nearby homes.

"I feel very thankful," said third-grader Noah Pasternak, who said fire crews saved his home in the canyon. "They did a really good job."

The location of the school and its large parking lot on Old Topanga Road made it well-suited to be a staging area for firefighters from the Pasadena, Burbank, Glendale and Alhambra fire departments.

The firefighters who attended the lunch were members of two strike teams that were deployed from the school or another staging area in nearby Fernwood. Strike team members are the first to be sent to a fire when an outside fire department requests assistance.

As the blue-shirted fire personnel munched on sandwiches, potato salad and chocolate-chip cookies, they examined student-made wooden centerpieces decorated with fire engines. The students presented them with a banner and recited speeches and poems.

The serenity of the sun-dappled picnic luncheon made the fires seem light years away.

"It's great looking back over your shoulder and see that you did make a difference," said Donald Wright, a captain with the Glendale Fire Department. "The kids rely on the buildings to be here."

Calmont School suffered no fire damage, although nearby brush was scorched.

"The kids learned that there are more important heroes than Power Rangers," said school director Linda Creager.

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