A community came together Thursday night to thank the firefighters of the North and South Summit Fire Districts for their work fighting the Rockport fire last month. An appreciation dinner was held at the North Summit Fire District firehouse attended by both residents and firefighters.
The dinner was organized by Wendy Sanborn, Suzanne St. Pierre and Susan Cronin, using some of their own personal funds.
"The donations that the residents were giving, we didn't want to take away from [those] they were giving them for the firefighters," Cronin said.
Smith's donated all of the food for the dinner, which included grilled ribs, potato salad and more. Abbi Kimball, Smith's Store Manager, said her grocery store was "just happy to be involved."
"Wendy shops at our store and I just said hello to her one day and asked how she was doing and she said she was putting this together," Kimball said. "And I said, 'Why don't you let us help?'"
When asked, many residents did not know what else to say to the firefighters other than 'thank you.' Kimball was especially grateful for their sacrifice.
"I would say to them: thanks for being a great part of the community. It's nice to go to bed at night and know you have them on your side," Kimball said.
With donations garnered from both those who live near Rockport and outside the community, Sanborn was able to raise $7,000 for the North and South Summit Fire Districts, which will split the funds.
"We were deeply moved by your courage, the actions that you took to save our homes many of us watched the fire, didn't know what to do," Sanborn said. "So many of the homes are still standing because of what you did."
Renee and Kevin Eder, whose home in Rockport remained unscathed by the fire, were amazed by the firefighters' efforts.
"We sat across the lake and watched the helicopters drop water. It was pretty awesome," Kevin Eder said.
"The coordination and response were just absolutely amazing," Renee Eder said. "To find out that they all volunteer their time is just mind-blowing."
Cherie Sorensen, whose family created a thank-you banner for fire crews who saved their cabin, recounted her fears during the fire.
"With ours we kind of thought we were out of danger until the winds shifted that last day," Sorensen said. "We got a call saying the flames were coming near our house. We thought it was gone, and we got a call an hour later saying they saved it."
Derek Hughes, whose house on Aspen Circle in Rockport was saved by fire crews, donated a mahogany-encased chrome fire extinguisher to the Summit County firefighters. Hughes, who is a Fire Protection Manager for Ansul, said the extinguisher is "the most prestigious gift we offer."
"I actually saw my house catch fire through binoculars and a minute afterwards I saw about three firemen rushing down, spraying down the side of my house," Hughes said.
St. Pierre, who said they received 100 RSVPs from community members for the dinner, expressed her thanks to the firefighters.
"It's so hard to say thank you for what they did. You can't say thank you big enough," St. Pierre said. "I hope they know they're appreciated."
Summit County Fire Warden Bryce Boyer extended a special thank-you to the families of the firefighters.
"We need to take into consideration [the firefighters'] wives, families and husbands," Boyer said. "They were very understanding with their leaving and being gone for an entire week."
Near the end of the dinner, all of the North and South Summit firefighters and emergency medical personnel involved with the Rockport fire lined up as residents walked up to shake each of their hands. Sanborn also presented all of them with custom-made Navajo necklaces.
Tyler Rowser from the North Summit Fire District expressed the sense of duty his fellow firefighters have.
"To us, it's just doing our job. Our job is to save everything we can and go from there," Rowser said. "It's really nice to have people think about us."
Cronin said the Rockport community will be hosting two upcoming clean-up days, clearing trees and brush in the Rockport area in preparation for the aerial seeding that will take place. The clean-up days are set for Sept. 28 and Oct. 5, both Saturdays.