• Monterey and Seaside Firefighters offer a hand up to victims and families when disaster strikes

    SAVE Offers Immediate Aid to Victims of Catastrophic Loss

    When firefighters answer the call, they are more than just first responders. Often they are comforting people on the worst day of their lives. Now, two area fire departments are making it possible for firefighters to help fire and disaster victims take the first steps toward healing.

    Supplying Aid to Victims of Emergency (SAVE) allows firefighters to give on-the-spot aid to families and individuals who suffer substantial residential property loss in a fire or a major disaster. Created and funded by the non-profit California Fire Foundation, SAVE provides departments with Mastercard gift cards that can be activated right there on the scene of an incident to help with basic expenses.

    “Firefighters do what we do because of a desire to serve,” said Lou Paulson, chair of the California Fire Foundation and a retired Contra Costa firefighter. “By offering SAVE cards to those who have lost so much, firefighters are able to continue providing comfort and support after the fire is out.”

    The Monterey and Seaside Fire Departments are among 30 departments statewide that have joined the SAVE partnership. The $100 Mastercard SAVE cards are carried by incident commanders to residential fire and disaster calls. If the occupancy loss is 25 percent or more of total value, a SAVE card can be activated at the scene.

    “When someone loses their home in a fire or disaster, they’re devastated,” said Gaudenz Panholzer, chief of the Monterey City Fire Department. “SAVE lets us provide aid immediately, so folks can get a hot meal, buy some clothes or maybe find a place to stay the night.”

    “Every firefighter has been in a situation where a family is standing at the curb, watching their homes burn, along with everything they have in the world,” said Ken Hutchinson, president of Monterey City Firefighters Local 3707. “This little card isn’t going to fix everything, but it will give people a little comfort at a tough time.”

    SAVE cards were issued to California fire departments in late August, following a successful test of the program in the Sacramento area. To date, more than 45 families touched by tragedy have been helped through the program.

    “Our fire stations are in every community, and when our neighbors suffer a loss, we feel it as well,” said Seaside Fire Chief Brian Dempsey. “Though we hope no one ever needs to use a SAVE card, we’re glad to be able to offer a bit of support if the worst happens, and lets our neighbors know we’re there for them.”

    “We can’t restore all they’ve lost, but a SAVE card can help them through those first difficult 24 hours, and maybe help them feel a little less lost and alone,” added Jerry Suarez, president of Seaside Firefighters Association Local 1218.

    SAVE is funded by the California Fire Foundation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit foundation dedicated to supporting fallen firefighter families and their communities. Most of the donations to the Foundation come from Cailfornia firefighters themselves. Corporate support for SAVE comes from a grant from Chevron. No taxpayer dollars are used.

    The Foundation continues to raise funds and seek additional sponsorships to bring SAVE cards to more communities and, eventually, increase the face value of the cards. Individuals interested in contributing can go to SAVE.cafirefoundation.org.



    posted to Cedar Street Times on November 13, 2014

    Topics: Front PG News


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