Tres Chiles Picosos server Jose Contreras freshens up a glass of water for Humboldt Bay Fire Department firefighters Colin Beddow (not pictured), Tim Citro holding his potato chip talking with Michael Landry and Brandon Harlander (not pictured). (Jose Quezada — For the Times-Standard)
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The owners of Tres Chiles Picosos restaurant in Eureka know what it’s like to deal with the impacts of wildfire and as the recovery for the tens of thousands of victims of the Camp Fire in Butte County begins, they are doing their small part to help.

Specifically, the restaurant owners want to help the first responders in Butte County who have lost their homes and belongings. On Tuesday, they held a 10-hour fundraiser at the restaurant on Broadway in Eureka.

Humboldt Bay Fire had engine companies at the restaurant throughout the day and 25 percent of all proceeds from food and drink sales will be donated to relief efforts for first responders in Butte County.

“What happened was we saw a niche, we have a lot of firefighter friends in Redding and hearing about the first responders and their families, people who were watching as their own homes burned down struck a chord with us,” said co-owner Spencer Marcki, who owns Tres Chiles Picosos in Eureka and the Sicada Cantina in Redding along with his wife, Alexis and his mother-in-law, Michelle Hill. “We wanted to focus on the first responders, the firefighters who put their lives on the line. Last Thursday, we held a fundraiser in Redding and we will add the money we raise tonight into one check and hopefully be able to turn it over sometime next week.”

Marcki said they watched the devastation from the Carr Fire as it ripped through Redding and surrounding areas in July, so giving back to the community and to emergency personnel hits close to home.

“It’s been a whirlwind. During the Carr Fire, one way we gave back to the community was with a free taco bar for a week straight and served anyone who was hungry,” Marcki said. “We want very much to be a part of the community and we wanted to find a way to give back.”

Humboldt Bay Fire engineer Colin Beddow sits with his daughter Brynn as he waits for their lunch at Tres Chiles Picosos Mexican restaurant on Broadway in Eureka. (Jose Quezada — For the Times-Standard)

Two Humboldt Bay Fire engine companies arrived at Tres Chiles Picosos just before noon and the on-duty crews were gathering at the restaurant to buy lunch and add their support to the fundraising effort. At the height of the Camp Fire, nearly 50 personnel from municipal and volunteer departments along with Cal Fire were dispatched from Humboldt County as part of a strike team to assist firefighting efforts in Butte County.

“I think we all as firefighters, we feel a bond with each other generally and we have that sense of willingness of wanting to help people,” said engineer Colin Beddow. “Especially having that connection with other firefighters, we want to what we can to help our brothers and sisters, we want to do more.”

For second-year veteran firefighter Brandon Harlander, who got some friendly prompting from Capt. Michael Landry while being interviewed, it’s simply a chance to give back.

“It’s a huge day for us, not only are we out here supporting our brothers and sisters in the fire service, we’re out here being active in the community as well,” Harlander said.

In addition to donating proceeds from food and drink sales, Tres Chiles Picosos also had a dozen donated items that would be up for auction and 100 percent of the proceeds from that auction will be added to the total from the restaurant’s contribution.

“Humboldt comes together for people who need help and the importance of this effort is to help out our sister community and those families who don’t have much right now,” said assistant manager Crystal Combs. “The hotels are still full, and people are still in shelters. They (firefighters) had to sit and watch as everything they had burned down while they were out working to save lives. They couldn’t take off and evacuate with their families, the stayed back and helped others. It’s heartbreaking.”

Combs and restaurant general manager Victor Contreras were busy with last-minute preparations for another day of serving food as the doors to the restaurant were opened for the day and they sat down for an interview. Combs, who knows what it’s like to lose everything, was visibly emotional as she talked about those who still need help, particularly during a very busy holiday season.

“Redding just went through this with the Carr Fire and they are still trying to put the pieces of their lives back together and some haven’t even started rebuilding,” she said. “I hope that we can write a big hefty check. You get a sense of worth, the power is in the giving and it’s the Christmas season and everybody is planning for their holidays. Then you just have to take a step back and think, not everybody has that privilege. Not everybody has a tree to put up. Not everybody has a house to put presents in. It hits you hard.”

The restaurant coordinated the fundraiser with Humboldt Bay Firefighters Union 652 and those same members have been busy for the past few weeks collecting toys for the union’s annual toy drive. The fundraising effort is just another chance for those who have dedicated their lives to helping others, to reach out and help some more.

“It’s kind of a selfless profession and I bet many of those firefighters over there didn’t for one minute think of themselves and said, ‘Screw it, I’ll deal with it when it’s over,’ ” said John Goodman, fire captain and president of Local 652, who also said they are thinking long-term when it comes to recovery efforts. “They went out there and did the job they know, protecting lives and property and getting people out of harm’s way. That was more important than going home. The biggest thing people can do now is to take a wait-and-see approach. Everybody wants to help out right away but they’re going to need help a few months down the road when supplies start to get low. There will be that second wave when these people will still need our help.”

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