HIGHLAND PARK - Having witnessed Santa Claus atop a glistening Los Angeles Fire Department ladder truck in a community parade the week prior, the four children of the Vigil family were insistent that their letters to Santa be taken directly to the Neighborhood Fire Station.
Warmly accepting the neatly addressed letters on Tuesday, December 18, 2012 - before the alarm bell rang, the crew of LAFD Station 12 on North Figueroa Street offered the family their warmest wishes before they said goodbye.
With strong winds howling across Los Angeles, the firefighters of Station 12 were forced to leave the letters unopened in the firehouse, as they raced to emergencies well into the night. With pride in their day-long efforts, including the conquest of a wind-whipped electrical blaze on Benner Street that threatened to destroy several households that evening, the firefighters gathered late at night in the fire station to finally open the letters, one of which read:
Dear Santa,The words were deeply moving, but what stunned firefighters was the return address printed neatly on the envelope. It was that of the Benner Street fire, sparked by an electrical malfunction, that had just displaced an unseen "family of five" described by neighbors as humble, proud and polite - yet hard-pressed.
My name is Joseph. I am 12 years old. This year we might not have Christmas because my Mom got laid off a few weeks ago and told us there will be no Christmas for us. All I want is for my little brother Nathan who is 7 and my lil sister Savana who is 6 to have a nice Christmas this year.
Inspired by the Vigil family, LAFD crews quickly reached out to neighbors, local businesses and community leaders - and especially those who have generously supported Southern California Firefighters' Spark of Love Toy Drive.
Two days after the fire, a surprise gathering at Fire Station 12 brought forth the magic that can only happen when a community comes together:
The men and women of the Los Angeles Fire Department thank the many who have kindly supported Spark of Love and other Fire Department charitable endeavors throughout the year. While not every need is dramatic, there are many heartfelt needs being fulfilled thanks to your continuing and gracious generosity.
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Submitted by Brian Humphrey, Spokesman
Los Angeles Fire Department