Selah firefighters’ vandalized cars will be repaired for free after outpouring of community support
SELAH, Wash. – After two days with no sleep, battling the Evans Canyon Fire and risking their lives to protect hundreds of homes threatened by the wildfire, three Selah firefighters returned to their fire station early Wednesday morning to find their car windows smashed.
“It is a sad day when criminals will prey on the first responders that are potentially keeping them safe,” Yakima County sheriff’s spokesperson Casey Schilperoort said. “I am sure all they wanted to do was drive home and sleep; now they have to deal with this mess and insurance companies.”
But after one firefighter posted pictures of the damage, the Selah community rallied to help. Local businesses donated the materials, money and labor to fix the car windows and community members donated money, water, food and other supplies for those still fighting the wildfire.
“We are so grateful for the community’s support,” Selah Fire Chief Gary Hanna said. “Anytime we have any kind of event like this, we get the same response: people, everywhere, wanting to help.”
Community members flooded local Facebook groups with messages of support, offering up their properties for firefighters to park their vehicles and offering to set up watches outside the fire station to make sure their cars are safe.
Hanna said it appears nothing was taken and that the windows were broken as an act of vandalism. He also said he’s working to get approval to budget in getting security cameras for all the fire stations next year.
“When you just vandalize the cars, to me, that’s directed directly at the firemen,” Hanna said. “There’s no other intent there, other than just doing it to the firemen.”
Yakima County sheriff’s deputies are investigating the vandalism. No arrests had been made as of Wednesday evening.
With vehicle repairs already covered and countless donations made to the Selah Fire Department, Hanna said he encourages people to donate to the American Red Cross or other places that are helping those people who have had to evacuate their homes due to the fire.
Just hours after offering up Selah Insurance Services as a drop site for donations, Ginger Tyler said her lobby was packed with Gatorade, water bottles and snacks for the firefighters.
“There’s money being dropped off every 15 or 20 minutes,” Tyler said. “I probably still have another 30 unanswered texts and Facebook messages cause everybody’s trying to help.”
Broadway Bound Dance Academy, another donation drop site, posted photos Wednesday evening on Facebook showing piles and piles of donated supplies.
Coffee At Tiffany’s also offered up their drive-thru coffee shop as an easy way for people to drop off their donations — starting with a donation of $100 from the coffee shop itself.
Northwestern Auto Glass owner Bob Dexter offered up new car windows — free of charge — and ordered them Wednesday. He said with everything the firefighters are dealing with, he wanted to do his part to ease a little of the burden.
“I want to help any way I can; I’m not a firefighter, so the only way I can really help is maybe help those guys out,” Dexter said. “The true heroes are the firefighters, not us, we just want to make sure we get them taken care of. They deserve it.”
The service department at Brian Harris Used Cars said they donate their time, space and labor to install the new car windows, while Johnson’s Mobile Detailing offered up free detailing for the firefighters’ cars to get rid of any remaining broken glass inside.