Safety Harbor firefighters buy mobile home for fire victims

Firefighters work to put out the Nov. 10 blaze that destroyed the home of two women at the Safety Harbor Mobile Home Park.

Safety Harbor Fire Department

Firefighters work to put out the Nov. 10 blaze that destroyed the home of two women at the Safety Harbor Mobile Home Park.

SAFETY HARBOR — They've helped replace tools destroyed in a fire, bought holiday dinners for needy families, helped an injured man pay his bills.

And this year, the Safety Harbor Professional Firefighters Local 2267 helped purchase a handicap-accessible van for Andrew Hall, who lost his leg when he was hit by a drunken driver in April 2009.

But last month, union members did something they've never done before.

They bought a mobile home for a woman and her adult daughter, whose home was destroyed in a dramatic fire Nov. 10 that sent flames shooting dozens of feet into the air.

"They literally had just what they had on their backs," said union president, Capt. John Little. "They even lost their vehicle."

The fire at the Safety Harbor Mobile Home Park at 1025 Philippe Parkway was determined to be accidental, said Safety Harbor Fire Marshal Richard Brock.

The women, who declined to be interviewed for this story, were able to move in before Thanksgiving.

"Unfortunately, it seems like every year around this time there's some type of tragic event like this," Little said.

That's when the union, with 25 members, sprang into action and checked the balance of its charity fund. The mobile home, in the same park, cost $2,500, Little said.

Safety Harbor, with a population of roughly 17,000, is a little bit like "Mayberry R.F.D.," Little said, even in 2010. And that means that members of the city's 31-member Fire Department get to know the people they serve.

"We worked with them at the wine festival and they were standing side by side with me cleaning the street at 1 o'clock in the morning," said Janet Hooper, executive director of the Safety Harbor Neighborhood Family Center.

Hooper said the firefighters have been dedicated about supporting the nonprofit center, which offers services such as after-school care for children and computer training for adults and kids. The center also houses and supports the church and community outreach food pantry.

"They are very kind and very generous and do a lot in the community besides fight fires and risk their lives," Hooper said. "They're always willing to step up to the plate and help people."

Just this week, Hooper said, the union brought her a check for $500, which will go toward buying Christmas gifts for disadvantaged children and stocking up the pantry.

"We're blessed to have all of them taking care of us," she said.

Giving back to the people who make up their little community is exactly the point, said firefighter Dave Pacheco.

"When we can put a smile back on someone's face who's been affected by a tragedy …" he said, "there is nothing more gratifying."

Safety Harbor firefighters buy mobile home for fire victims 12/10/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, December 14, 2010 3:37pm]

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