Presentation of Awards
When: Wednesday, June 23rd at 2pm
Where: Napa County Fire Department Station 12, 7401 Solano Avenue, Yountville, CA
What: Bay Area News Celebrity Diane Dwyer to present $75,000 to 3 fire fighters who lost their homes while battling 2020 wildfires
YOUNTVILLE, Calif.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Summit Bank Foundation, led by bank founder and CEO Shirley Nelson, is sending a message to first responders who were deeply affected by the 2019/20 wildfires… THANK YOU! The Foundation raised $83,001 to meet the unprecedented needs of those who were severely impacted and lost their homes in personal sacrifice during fire relief efforts.
“Being a first responder takes a special kind of person who’s willing to learn emergency skills and risk personal safety to protect others,” says Yountville Mayor John Dunbar. “Our professional firefighters and law enforcement show a unique bravery and commitment to community service.”
One soon-to-be-married firefighting couple, Brandon North and Rebecca Brown-Dehner, is receiving a generous and much-deserved wedding gift of $50,000 from the Foundation’s Fire Relief Effort fund.
Both top graduates from Napa Valley’s Fire Academy, Brandon and Rebecca felt prepared to tackle any challenge, until the LNU Lightning Complex Fire began in 2020. The fire quickly spread through their community due to violent wind shifts, leaving them little time to keep the fire in check, let alone gather their own personal belongings.
Rebecca was able to contact her father with only 20 minutes to save their family’s life-long memories, while Brandon remained steadfast in his fight against Mother Nature.
Sadly, both of their family homes burned to the ground even as Brandon and Rebecca continued to struggle in protecting others from similar devastation. They fought every moment until the fires were finally suppressed. The rest of the community was saved, but the scars are still present.
Having gone through so much together and after the fires receded, Brandon knew he wanted to spend the rest of his life with Rebecca and proposed… She said YES! However, their lives are still ravaged as they remain living in a local trailer park. The relief funds from Summit Bank Foundation will help them with a down payment on their first home together.
“You can’t get more deserving than these good people, who gave even when it meant losing something so close to them,” comments Bill Wheeler, owner of Black Tie Transportation and Foundation board member. This funding effort began in 2020 with a $20,000 match by the Summit Bank Foundation and bolstered by community support for deserving first responders.
Firefighter Mitchell Wilms will also receive a financial gift of gratitude from Summit Bank Foundation for his courage and perseverance during the LNU Lightning Complex Fire. He saved the lives and homes of many others in his community, at the cost of losing his family’s home and belongings. Mitchell began his journey to firefighting three years ago by signing up for the Explorers Youth Program at his local fire department. After completing this program, he knew this was his calling in life and pursued his dream of becoming a firefighter.
Once he graduated from Pope Valley’s Fire Academy in spring of 2020, he immediately deployed to fire and medical calls. He volunteered to join out-of-county strike teams to fight the Apple Fire and Lake Fire in Los Angeles. He enjoyed the feeling of protecting the local communities from losing their homes and lives. It was during his second Strike Mission that he was notified of the LNU fire commencing in his home town, Napa. He got back in the area just in time to stop the spread from heading further East, but the damage was devastating.
Mitchell was able to contact his family just before their house set ablaze. His family was safe, along with his pets and livestock, but his childhood home had vanished. The fire department gave him the option of either leaving the Strike Team and hanging up his helmet and jacket, or to keep fighting for those who needed his help to save their homes.
“Summit Bank Foundation wants to make a difference for those who sacrificed for others,” adds CEO Shirley Nelson. “People are trying to rebuild their lives, and we want to be first in line to support those who were courageously fighting fires.”
Today, Mitchell and his family reside in his late-Grandfather’s old house. While thankful to have a roof over their heads, the home is in dire need of repairs. He is working to replace the water and plumbing systems that were either damaged from the fire or rotting from age. He also lost his collection of ranch equipment, creating more difficulty for him and his family with their livestock. His personal collection of fishing gear was also lost to the fire. He intends to invest the funding from Summit Bank Foundation into a fresh start for his family.
“During last year’s devastating fires, Mitchell, Rebecca and Brandon stayed on the fire lines to help protect our county, while experiencing their own tragic losses,” recalls Napa County Fire Chief Geoff Belyea. “Their bravery and dedication to their community is remarkable.”
Mayor John Dunbar agrees. “In Napa County, we live with an elevated fire risk that is reality today,” he adds. “We need people like Rebecca, Brandon and Mitchell who are ready and willing to help protect us, even when they are experiencing their own crisis. Thanks to Shirley Nelson and Summit Bank Foundation for recognizing and rewarding their heroic efforts.”
Shirley Nelson, Chairman and CEO, Summit Bank Foundation
2969 Broadway | Oakland, CA 94611 Direct 510.268-3417 | Fax 510.628.0416