Donation drive for firefighters begins

What started as an employee donation drive at the Grovetown John Deere Commercial Products plant grew Tuesday into an expanded effort to collect items for workers battling the largest wildfire in Georgia history.


Cathy Jones, an administrative assistant at the plant, said she suggested the drive as a way to collect items firefighters needed. Emergency workers have tried to contain the wildfire since it began April 16 after wind blew down a power line near Waycross, Ga.

"We'd like to get as much as we can and get it on down there," said Pam Tucker, Columbia County's Emergency Services Division director, adding that donations can be dropped off at several county locations.

Chief Ranger Senior Steve Abbott, of the Georgia Forestry Commission Columbia/Richmond County Unit, has been helping battle three wildfires including the largest, which by Tuesday had covered 135 square miles.

"It's a fire world," said Ranger Abbott, who returned home April 24.

Another local firefighter, McDuffie County Forestry Ranger John Crawford Jr., was injured while using a bulldozer during the south Georgia blaze when he was trapped after a wind shift. Ranger Crawford, a 16-year forestry commission veteran, jumped from the bulldozer into a portable fire shelter and escaped with minor burns to his ear and neck and smoke inhalation, according to Mickey Moore, of the Joint Information Center in Waycross, Ga.

Martinez-Columbia Fire Rescue firefighters Capt. Mike Holberton and Capt. Brent Willis took a tanker truck to the Waycross area April 26. They are expected to return today, when Capt. Gary Griffiths and Capt. David Butler arrive to relieve them.

"As long as they need folks, we'll do what we can do to help," Martinez-Columbia Chief Doug Cooper said.

Mr. Abbott said the firefighters working more than 12-hour shifts along the fire line can use anything that makes them more comfortable, including lip balm, toiletries, insect repellent, sunglasses and bandanas.

Donations can be dropped off from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the lobbies of the two Grovetown John Deere plants at 700 Horizon South Parkway and 1 John Deere Parkway, or taken to any Martinez-Columbia Fire Rescue station or to The Columbia County News-Times office on Washington Road in Evans.

Reach Valerie Rowell at 868-1222, ext. 110 or


- White crewneck T-shirts (Sizes large-XXXL)

- Foot/boot liners

- Beef jerky

- Slim Jims (mild)

- Batteries (AA, AAA and C)

- Bandanas

- Windex wipes

- Insect repellent (with tick repellent)

- Sunscreen

- Aqua-Cool neck wraps

- Nonmedicated saline

- Nasal spray

- Sunglasses

- Sunglass strings/holders

- Orajel

- Towels and washcloths

- Large glow sticks

- Bungee cords

- Dust masks

- Resealable plastic bags (all sizes)

- Flip flops

- Trail mix

- Carmex lip balm

- Hand sanitizer (travel size)

- Shaving cream (travel size)

- Shampoo (travel size)

- Gold Bond Medicated Powder (travel size)

- Small mirrors

- Granola bars

- Duct tape

- Gatorade/Powerade

- Paper towels

- Vienna sausages

- Blankets

- Sardines

- Beanie weenies

- M&M's (individual packs)

- Peanuts