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National

Anonymous Woman Covers $405 Dinner Bill For Firefighters

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Wildfires are burning across almost every state in the West, which means firefighters are working long and hard hours. Over the weekend, firefighters battled the La Cadena fire near San Bernardino, Calif. Colton City Fire Chief Tim McHargue says temperatures reached 111 degrees as the fire team fought the blaze.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TIM MCHARGUE: They worked through the hottest part of the day. They were very, very tired. They were hungry and were very, very happy to eat.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Yeah, so when that fire was finally contained, the chief sent his team to a nearby Denny's to get some dinner. There were dozens of firefighters on the team, so they ate in shifts. After the first 25 firefighters, McHargue went to settle the bill.

MCHARGUE: I walked up to the server and the manager, and they pulled me aside. And they said, an anonymous woman came up to us, and she told us that she wanted to pay for the dinner for all the firefighters.

INSKEEP: Four-hundred five dollars. And the donor added a hundred dollars to pay for dessert.

MCHARGUE: The fact that she did that anonymously, and she didn't tell anybody is a snapshot into the character of that woman. Colton is not a super wealthy community and is essentially a blue-collar town, just hardworking families that have lived here for a hundred years. So it was a real good shot in the arm for morale.

GREENE: And McHargue, we should say, had some mixed emotions. I mean, he found the actions of the anonymous bill payer wonderful, but he's a little uncomfortable.

MCHARGUE: Firefighters, they get a little embarrassed when people thank us. We do. And it's just - we like doing our job. We don't necessarily have to be recognized for it. We just enjoy and those of us that got in the fire service did it to serve our community. So when people say thanks, it's really a neat thing, but it's also an embarrassing thing, honestly.

INSKEEP: Now, the La Cadena fire is now out but the work continues. Much of the Colton team is fighting fires in other parts of California.

(SOUNDBITE OF YO LA TENGO'S "THE FIRESIDE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.