Wednesday, November 7, 2007

RB Inn heroes toast of town

Posted @ 3:26 PM

In between all the parties and hearty handshakes from bigwigs, Dave Buckles and his grounds crew at the Rancho Bernardo Inn continue to clean up the considerable mess left by the Witch Creek fire.
He and his eight crew members are being feted for saving more than six houses on two streets near the posh golf resort. When Buckles and his men got to work after dawn the day the fire raged through RB, they just grabbed some hoses and started fighting back -- for 12 hours.
They've been featured in the newspaper and on TV. The mayor has invited them to lunch. Neighbors whose homes were saved threw them a party last weekend, and another party is in the works by people on another street whose homes they are credited with saving.
"It's been pretty crazy. My eyes stung for like three days the smoke was so bad and one of my guys got his jacket pitted with ember burns," said Buckles, 46. "But I'm really proud of my crew. They work hard all year without much recognition and now to have this, it's pretty great."
This Sunday they're been invited to the San Diego Chargers game by Luis Castillo, defensive end, who also promised them all an autographed jersey.
Buckles' crew turned firebrigade are: Esteban Chavez, Jorge Rosales, Manuel Soto, Julio Montes, Alfonso Escutia, Jose Luis Valencia, Guillermo Heredia and Pedro Ramirez.
The only house they couldn't save had a wood-shingle roof that burned too quickly for them to put out. But still Chavez raced into the burning building to save a photograph of a little girl he saw lying on the floor, its frame and glass unbroken and the picture unscathed.
The picture was of Chase Sanders, now 18. When her mother, Sharon Sanders, was given the picture by Chavez, she said she broke down into tears. The Sanders family had also been in the epicenter of the 1994 Northridge earthquake, she said, and the same photograph was one of the few things that survived that disaster unscathed.

-- Lisa Petrillo