An outpouring of support and generosity is spilling across the country for firefighters at Fire Station No. 7 in Walnut Creek, which was burglarized this weekend as the crew was battling a raging brush fire on the outskirts of Mount Diablo State Park.
Top among the many kind deeds was an offer to replace a watch and two wedding rings stolen from the Walnut Creek fire house. The sentimental goods were taken sometime Sunday night as the crew was working a 24-hour shift fighting the Morgan Fire. Some cash, a wallet and an iPad were also taken.
"We just want to make them whole," Steve Padis, who co-owns Padis Jewelry in San Francisco with his wife, Judy Padis, who immediately jumped into action when she heard of the theft. The couple live in Danville and could see the smoke billowing from the mountaintop and the flames licking the hillside like hot lava. As of Thursday, the 3,100-acre fire near the popular hiking spot of Mt. Diablo in Contra Costa County was 90 percent contained.
“It’s beyond horrific,” Padis told NBC Bay Area on Thursday. “They are protecting our lives and property. How could someone steal from our heroes?"
Padis said that he’s willing to make up the loss, whatever it is.
“If we don’t sell a ring, we’ll make it,” he said.
For their part, the firefighters are stunned at the goodwill stemming from the burglary at 1050 Walnut Avenue in Walnut Creek, where they believe someone pried open the door while the entire crew was out working. The story reverberated around the country, with news organizations from coast to coast telling the tale.
Aside from the jewelry offer, Brian Teeman of El Sobrante set up a fundraising site called “Show Love to Walnut Creek Fire Station No. 7!,” which as of Thursday, had generated $400. People were calling the station to offer up new iPads and help the station become more secure in the wake of the crime. A person walked in off the street on Thursday and delivered an iPad when NBC Bay Area was there.
“It’s outstanding,” Contra Costra County Fire District Inspector Steve Aubert said. “It just rebuilds your faith in the public’s appreciation of what we put on the line.”
The Padis family did connect with the firefighters on Thursday to arrange a jewelry delivery, but there may be a glitch in the gifting. Fire administration officials were meeting to find out if it was legally OK for firefighters – public servants – to accept such a generous gift.
“We’re trying to work it out so that no one gets in trouble,” Aubert said, adding that the gift might have to be donated to the firefighters’ union and not the fire district. He said a decision might come early next week.
Whatever the outcome, Aubert said just knowing that people care so much about what they do is the part that warms the heart.
“It’s absolutely amazing and humbling,” he said.
NBC Bay Area's Jodi Hernandez contributed to this report.