Businesses help firefighters |

Businesses help firefighters

Merlyn Oliver, Tahoe Daily Tribune

South Shore business owners did not hesitate to give away part of the store this weekend to exhausted firefighters and evacuees.

Whether it was food, a shower or a place to keep a dog, franchisees and small business owners leapt to fill the need.

Kirk Klempcke, director of operations for the Burger King at Stateline, allowed his parking lot to be used as a staging area for evacuees. He set up a cooler full of water and a soft drink stand. Then he and his crew made sandwiches.

“About 150 to 200 people were here,” general manager Greg Westland said. “People were signing a waiting list, then waiting for about an hour to get a shuttle up Kingsbury so they could get a few things out of their houses.”

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His store donated about 150 Whopper Value Meals, Klempcke said.

Kingsbury Veterinary offered free boarding for pets.

“When we heard upper Kingsbury was closed, we put the word out on KRLT that people coming down the hill could bring their pets here,” Jim Hewitt, manager, said. “We were almost completely full, and that included a huge macaw.”

Michael “Chewy” Pease, who manages two Round Table pizza stores between Round Hill and the “Y,” was traveling between both stores when the smoke started to billow.

“The first day we made up 20 extra pizzas and took them to the fire trucks parked behind Raley’s,” Pease said. “They ran some up the hill to the firefighters.”

Pease’s son Matthew, 22, who manages the “Y” store, had also been shut out of his house on upper Kingsbury.

“He was worried about getting just one thing out of his place, the only pictures he had of his mom, now deceased,” Pease said. “So at 1 a.m. we went up the Grade to the roadblock. One of the firefighters drove my son up so he could get the pictures. We went back to the store and brought them back some pizzas. The next day we took some to Heavenly’s California base lodge.”

On Saturday afternoon the Tahoe Beach & Ski Club let a busload of sweaty firefighters use their beach.

“They were black and dirty, so we let them use our beach showers and we gave them some towels,” Leland Pierce, front desk manager, said. “Some of them just went into the lake.”

At Stateline, the casinos offered discounts on rooms available by last-minute cancellations.

“We did whatever we could to help stranded vacationers,” Mindy Befu, marketing manager for Caesars Tahoe, said. “We were close to being sold out, but those rooms filled. The Ridge time-share people came down here.”

On the other side of Kingsbury Grade, the Carson Valley Inn went into high gear so fast they didn’t keep close track of what was donated and what would be underwritten by the Red Cross.

“Things happen so fast, when the call comes in, you just get on it,” Bill Henderson, director of sales and marketing, said. “They pick it up at the back loading dock. We did 550 boxed lunches over two days, 200 hot breakfasts, 34 steak dinners for the bomber pilots and their crews and 40 gallons of coffee.”

The Red Cross, using 64 volunteers, set up cots for 168 evacuees at Pau-Wa-Lu School in the Gardnerville Ranchos. They served 3,114 meals and snacks, according to Jim Utterback, director of emergency services.

“We have stuff prepositioned, and we do this so often, it’s almost routine,” he said.

When the worst was over and the firefighters were ready to demobilize, Heavenly Ski Resort was standing by with a thank-you gift: an insulated Heavenly travel mug.

“Each firefighter got one as they left fire camp,” Andrew Strain, liaison for the resort, said. “We wanted to find some way to show our appreciation. It was the one thing we had enough of. Everybody liked them.”

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