Sales pick up emergency services by the shirtsleeves |

Sales pick up emergency services by the shirtsleeves

Carrie Click
Staff Writer

There’s an item so coveted by firefighters that, though they are weary from a day cutting lines and inhaling smoke, it will lead them to jump off a crew bus and, forsaking all else, jockey in long lines to attain it. It’s a T-shirt.

New Castle Alpine Bank branch manager and Lions Club member Judy Shaffer learned this summer just how valuable a T-shirt can be. Sales of Spring Creek Fire T-shirts gave a big boost to local fire and ambulance services.

“I got a call in early July from the marketing department at Alpine Bank,” she said. “They’d heard that Joe Hartman, the incident base commander for the Spring Creek Fire outside New Castle, was trying to get some T-shirts made up for his crew. They wanted me to find out more about that.”

Hartman told her that firefighters like to take a memento home after working a big fire.

“They want to be able to take something away from the incident to remind them of where they were,” she said. “Over a season, they accumulate a T-shirt for each fire they fight. It’s not exactly a trophy, but in some ways it is.”

That trophy isn’t just for out-of-town firefighters. Local firefighters are just as fanatical about showing they were a part of the fire – and for good reason.

“The Burning Mountains Fire District, other local firefighters, and local police did an outstanding job,” said New Castle Lions Club member Harry Garner. “They were such an important part of the overall effort.”

To acknowledge that effort, residents near a fire often design and sell a wildfire T-shirt. Firefighters and locals purchase the shirts, and profits go back to the community.

The T-shirts were a good way to help buoy spirits – and fill local emergency service coffers with needed funds. Shaffer quickly contacted Carbondale screenprinter Doug Tucker, and put the word out for T-shirt art designers.

Firefighter Dan Bean, of Maine, was injured early in the Spring Creek Fire and was laid up at base camp in New Castle. His drawing of the steep canyon up East Elk Creek where the Spring Creek Fire was raging was selected, and Tucker started printing shirts to be sold for $12 each.

“Joe told us that we should order between 400 and 500 shirts,” Shaffer said. “We were conservative and only ordered 250. We took the first batch by base camp, and the word went out among the firefighters that the shirts were available.

“Firefighters coming back from the fire with soot all over their faces were forgoing a hot shower and a good meal and coming straight to us to buy their shirts. We sold out in two hours!” she said.

Garner was struck by the sense of community he saw among the firefighters.

“They bought shirts for themselves, but also for other firefighters,” he said. “It seemed like a lot of them had young kids, so we had some children’s sizes made up for them.”

Garner, also a Red Cross volunteer, also worked the shelters at the Coal Seam and Panorama fires.

“It was very rewarding,” he said. “I’d see these kids – to me – come down from these fires completely exhausted, rest for a few hours, and be ready to go right back up again. They are pretty amazing.”

For the next month, Shaffer, Garner and fellow Lions Club members, including Larry Borgard, Sharon Owens, Jeanne Casey and Neva Hiscock, continued ordering, printing and selling shirts.

Garner said Garfield County Sheriff Tom Dalessandri and his son sold shirts while checking on the Spring Creek base camp every evening. Firefighters bought anywhere from one to six, and townspeople purchased them too. By the end of the summer, out of 600 shirts, and all but 20 had sold, generating $2,500 in revenue for Silt Ambulance and Burning Mountains Fire District.

Monday evening, representatives from Alpine Bank and the local Lions Club presented a check for $1,250 to Burning Mountains Fire District chief David Yowell. Jim Shrull of Silt Ambulance received a check for the same amount last month.

“We were definitely happy,” said Shrull of the T-shirt windfall. “It kind of shocked us. We can always use more money.”

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