VERNAL — It was still early June when the Murray family decided they would be forgoing their Independence Day tradition of lighting fireworks this year.
"Our whole idea about not buying fireworks started on Father's Day," said Ashleah Murray. "We took a drive up the mountain and saw how dry everything was."
The Murrays — dad Thumper, mom Ann, and kids Ashleah, Brandin and Austyn — typically spend about $100 each year to celebrate the Fourth of July. They didn't have any particular plans for the money until the Pole Creek Fire broke out June 27, just north of Neola.
"I just thought, 'There's something that needs to be done for the firefighter," Ann Murray said. "So I just posted a comment on Facebook."
The effort the Murrays had started collected about $600 in just a few days.
"It just spread through some of our friends and family," Ashleah Murray said. "Before long, we had a big SUV full of food and drinks and Tylenol, ChapStick — anything anybody could think that we needed,"
The care packages were delivered to the fire lines, earning the family and their friends the gratitude of firefighters, said Chris Secakuku, Bureau of Indian Affairs forest manager for the Uintah-Ouray Agency.
"For us out on the line, I don't think there's any greater support we can get from the community," said Secakuku, who served as one of the incident commanders on the Pole Creek Fire.
The generosity helped boost firefighter morale, he said.
"And after hearing that these kids had used their own fireworks money to purchase these items, that made it that much more special," Secakuku said.
Ann Murray called the response from the firefighters humbling.
"They were telling us thanks, thank you, and I'm going, really?" Murray said. "You were just up fighting a fire, and you're the one to tell me thanks? You're the one that could have died."
The Murray family says they're hoping to start a trend and are challenging Utahns to donate their fireworks money this summer to the local Red Cross chapter or to their local fire departments.
"Give it to any local charity that's going to be here (during an emergency)," Brandin Murray said.
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