SAN DIEGO - Dozens gathered at the Coaster Saloon in Mission Beach on Sunday to raise much-needed funds for the families of the 19 Arizona firefighters killed last month.
The firefighters, who were members of the Granite Mountain Hot Shot crew, were battling the intense Yarnell wildfire near Prescott, Arizona last month when the fire overcame them all at the same time.
"Our goal is to raise $19,000 today … $1,000 for each of the 19 bereaved families," said Coaster Saloon general manager Darren Renna.
Autopsy reports show the firefighters died of burns and smoke inhalation after the fire blew up and suddenly changed direction.
This week, one of the founders of the hot shots could barely hold back tears as he talked about the 19 brave men who were found huddled together in their protective blankets.
"Nobody cut and run the other direction," he said. "Nobody tried to get out of the way. They all deployed. They were very cohesive."
Whether the people who showed up at Sunday's fundraiser knew the firefighters or not, the support was overwhelming.
"My father was a volunteer firefighter growing up and just to come out and support the families that lost a loved one," said attendee Courtney Horner.
Leslie LeBlanc said, "They were handing out flyers down the street and I came down to give my support."
Like LeBlanc, many bought shirts in memory of the firefighters who were killed.
Renna says he could not be happier with the turnout.
"The outpouring of support has been overwhelming," he said. "We're all very heartened to see the reaction it's been getting."
All funds raised will go to the Prescott Fallen Firefighters Association. At the fundraiser, there will be live music until 8 p.m., followed by a DJ dance party until 1:30 a.m.