Commemorative fire T-shirts popular among firefighters
Often reporters covering a fire ask if he feels bad about making money on a disaster, but he tells them it isn’t any different from what they are doing when they report the story. Also just as other contractors provide a service at fire camp by preparing meals or bringing in portable showers the T-shirt vendors provide items firefighters like to take home.
Bud Englund and Phil Rose, two members of a strike team providing structure protection, bought T-shirts for their children. Englund, who is with the Oroville Fire Department, and Rose, who works for the Paradise Fire Department, said they were called around 5 a.m. a couple days after the Moonlight Fire started and asked to bring their engines up. Both had been away from home for a while. This is a common scenario, said West.
“It’s the culture. Firefighters want to have a shirt for every fire they go to. They especially want them for their families. They are gone for a long time so it gives them something to take home to their families to make them realize they have been missed,” he explained.
West said he learns about the fires via a daily report that is issued on fires around the United States, coverage on the local news and also firefighters call. He has been in the business for 18 years and therefore many know him. It is fairly expensive to travel to a wildfire site therefore his decision depends on the number of personnel assigned to a fire.
The T-shirt designs are always tied to the name of the fire and some are more artistically inspiring than others. The name Moonlight Fire provided the basis for a good design, said West. He chose a full moon with a silhouette of a helicopter and a large buck. As he talked a firefighter looking at the merchandise commented on how much he liked the design.
West was not the only vendor present at the Moonlight Fire Camp. Karen Solwick sold T-shirts from a booth for Firefighter Up a division of Dick Enck Screen Printing located in Artois, Calif. She said the owner of the mobile screen printing company did T-shirts for a lot of special events as well as fires.
That Wednesday morning a third vendor was also setting up shop across from camp.
Although they are a private enterprise the vendors usually donate a portion of their proceeds to a charity. West said the firefighters make money therefore he looks for something local. For the Moonlight Fire he had decided to make a contribution to the Westwood Volunteer Fire Department.
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