COLTON, Calif. — A mystery woman picked up the check for 25 hungry California firefighters who had gone to a restaurant after a full day battling a wildfire.
The anonymous benefactor paid $355 for food, plus $50 tip, and got a $100 gift card to buy dessert for the next round of arriving firefighters.
The members of the Colton Fire Department had been fighting the La Cadena fire in La Loma Hills from noon to 8 p.m. on Saturday, before heading to a local Denny’s for a meal.
Fire department Public Information Officer Capt. Tom DeBellis told CNN the woman apparently approached the counter and said she “wanted to pay for the firefighters’ meals, but didn’t want to be recognized.
“The waitstaff told the firefighters, but by that time she was already gone.”
Colton Fire Department Chief Tim McHargue was at the restaurant at the time, and said he “felt bad that he couldn’t say thank you.”
McHargue said he hopes the mystery woman hears how grateful the firefighters are — through social media posts or news coverage.
“It boosts morale,” DeBellis said. “People normally bake cookies, make sandwiches, or give us sodas or cold water, as thanks for the guys’ hard work. The guys really appreciate it.”
The department has fought 15-20 wildfires just this week amid high temperatures and heavy humidity. “We’re not used to it!” Debellis joked.
Civilians have bought meals for firefighters in the department in the past, DeBellis said, but “never to this level of generosity.”