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Off-duty firefighters from the Vancouver Fire Department and Clark County Fire District 6 spent four hours Thursday, boots in hand, collecting money at a Hazel Dell intersection and will be out there again today from noon to 4 p.m.
Fill the Boot
• What: Off-duty firefighters raise money for the Muscular Dystrophy Association.
• When: Noon to 4 p.m. today.
• Where: Intersection of Highway 99 and Northeast 78th Street.
Proceeds from the annual Fill the Boot event go to the Muscular Dystrophy Association. The International Association of Fire Fighters has been the single largest contributor to the MDA, area director Linda Alexander said Thursday, when she joined firefighters at Northeast 78th Street and Highway 99.
The event originated in Boston in 1954.
Vancouver firefighter Mark Johnston said Thursday the Vancouver union, IAFF Local 452, was doing Fill the Boot when he was hired in 1983. While the firefighters go into traffic to collect cash — drivers who aren't in outer lanes typically honk to signal an intent to donate — Johnston said nobody has ever been injured.
Orange signs alert drivers, firefighters wear safety vests and a "corner captain" whistles to signal a change of light.
This marks the third year for the event outside of city limits.
In 2011, Vancouver officials told firefighters that Fill the Boot ran afoul of a city ordinance on aggressive panhandling and they fretted that it wasn't safe. That year, firefighters moved to the busy Hazel Dell intersection.
Johnston said Clark County Sheriff Garry Lucas welcomed the event into his territory.
Publicity about the exile from the city resulted in a record collection of $20,310, said John Stewart, a Vancouver firefighter who organizes the event.
Last year, they raised just under $15,000, Stewart said, and they would love to exceed that amount this year.
Statewide, firefighters raised $727,000 last year for the Muscular Dystrophy Association, Stewart said.
With muscular dystrophy, muscles get progressively weaker. Symptoms range "from mild muscle weakness to complete paralysis of all voluntary muscles, including those used for breathing and swallowing," according to the MDA's website.
In addition to its namesake disease, Alexander said the MDA supports research, advocacy and services for sufferers of other neuromuscular diseases, as well as ALS (Lou Gherig's disease).
Alexander said money from Fill the Boot helps pay for a summer camp and free clinics for families with neurologists, speech therapists and physical therapists.
In July, 82 children with neuromuscular disorders were able to attend a week-long overnight camp in Welches, Ore., that was staffed with enough volunteers to have at least a one-on-one ratio of campers and adults.
Campers were able to do activities such as archery, fishing and horseback riding with assistance, she said.
It costs $800 per camper, but events such as Fill the Boot enable all of the children to attend for free.
Local businesses also donate money, and grocery stores donate food, she said, to keep camp costs down.
Stephanie Rice: 360-735-4508 or firstname.lastname@example.org