A fill-the-boot campaign has been organized to help the families of two pilots killed in a helicopter crash. | Courtesy photo
SALMON — A fill-the-boot campaign is underway in Lemhi County to support the families of two pilots killed while helping fight a forest fire last week.
Thomas Hayes, 41, of Post Falls and Jared Bird, 36, of Anchorage, Alaska died after their helicopter crashed into the Salmon River Thursday afternoon. The pilots were assisting firefighters in battling the Moose Fire inside the Salmon-Challis National Forest.
Jared Bird and Thomas Hayes | GoFundMe
Patti Schwind says the accident has left her community devastated and she wanted to do something to help. The Salmon resident worked for the U.S. Forest Service over 32 years and has seen many forest fires during her life.
“It’s been such a tragic thing for us and the firefighters and the locals. I go into businesses and people are in tears,” Schwind tells EastIdahoNews.com. “Even though nobody knew these guys, people wanted to help.”
Schwind decided to organize a fill-the-boot fundraiser. She contacted a U.S. Forest Service liaison who’s been in touch with the pilots’ families and they were fine with the idea.
Thomas Hayes and Jared Bird died after their helicopter crashed into the Salmon River on Thursday, July 21. | Courtesy photo
“So I called Becky and Ja Nel Anderson, my two dear friends at Rags & Wags – the local thrift store. I said I needed them and explained what I wanted to do,” Schwind says.
The Andersons went into the basement of the thrift store and found several old pairs of rubber boots, which they cleaned, scrubbed and waxed. Purple ribbons were attached to each boot along with a flyer explaining the project.
“We thought maybe five businesses might help out but we really didn’t know what to expect,” Becky Anderson says.
Schwind posted about the boots on Facebook and people instantly responded that they wanted one at their business. Jervois Mining reached out and said they had six pairs of boots to donate to the cause.
“We spent Tuesday passing out 43 boots between Salmon, North Fork and Gibbonsville,” Schwind says. “Someone from Challis and someone from Dillon, Montana called asking if they could have some boots. I had no idea it would take off like it has and our little team of three has been busy.”
Anderson says it’s been amazing to watch the community come together in such a short amount of time, but she’s not surprised.
“That’s how it is here all the time. Whether they’re a stranger or a best friend, the community will come together to support,” Anderson explains. “That’s just what we do. We’re a tight-knit community who jumps in to help.”
The boots will be out for the next few weeks. When the project is done, Schwind plans to split the funds between the Hayes and Bird families. She’s been in touch with the Wildland Firefighter Foundation, which has been supporting the families with travel expenses, hotel costs and other expenses.
The remains of the pilots have been at funeral homes in Salmon and Missoula, Montana. Hayes and Bird were veterans and an “honor watch” has been underway at both funeral homes. Firefighters or veterans have been standing guard from 6 a.m. until 10 p.m. every day. Funeral details have not been publicly announced.
GoFundMe fundraisers have been created for Hayes and Bird for those who wish to donate online.
A cause of the crash has not been released and the NTSB, along with the FAA, continues to investigate.
“This has been tragic but the community wanted to help and they’re doing it. I commend the community of Salmon for stepping up and being willing to help. We want them (the pilots’ families) to know how much we care,” Schwind says.
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