Last month President Tony Stefani presented a plaque to Jean Caramatti and Bob McKinley, chairs of The San Francisco International Airport Charity Golf Tournament, to thank them for being generous supporters of SFFCPF over the years.

Below, Jean shares her personal story behind her reasons for designating SFFCPF.

“The San Francisco International Airport Charity Golf Tournament began in 2000 as an opportunity to build community among Airport employees, tenants, and contractors, but quickly became a successful avenue for charitable support. As Chair of the Tournament since 2015, it has pleased me no end to be able to support the San Francisco Firefighters Cancer Prevention Foundation with donations totaling $120,000 to date. The decision to fund the Foundation has always been unanimous among Committee members. It is often difficult to adequately express a sentiment, but the Committee hopes that our actions convey our intent and the message that you are valued.

This is my personal story having experienced a devastating fire.

On October 8, 2017 the Tubbs Fire erupted in Northern California. Fueled by 70 mile an hour winds, the wildfire destroyed more than 5,600 structures, burned nearly 37,000 acres, and took 123 days to contain. At the time, the Tubbs Fire was considered the most destructive fire in California’s history. On October 11 at around 8:00pm I received a text informing me that my home in Napa had been placed on an evacuation advisory. I was in San Francisco at the time. Friends in Napa advised that I return as quickly as possible as the advisory could turn mandatory at any time. Not wanting to make the drive on dark, two-lane country roads in the middle of a wildfire, I decided to make the trip early the next morning. I took the opportunity that night to put together a list of things I wanted to take out of the house. All personal family mementos that could not be replaced. The next morning, as I approached Highway 29, the main highway that runs through the Napa Valley, the air was thick with smoke, obliterating any view of the surrounding hills and making breathing difficult. The fire was about 2 miles behind my home. Had the winds shifted, it would have taken no time at all for the fire to reach my neighborhood. When I arrived at my house the first thing I noticed was that all of my neighbors had loaded their cars and U-Haul trailers, preparing for the moment that they would have to leave. I immediately began the process of packing up the items that were important to me. When I finished, I stood in my living room, looking out at my back yard, remembering the 4th of July BBQs I hosted for family and friends. Before I could get into my car, I went back into the house three times and just stood there, trying to commit to memory every detail and every gathering celebrated at my home. When I was finally able to leave, I checked in with a neighbor and asked him, should the evacuation advisory turn mandatory, to place a note on my door identifying to firefighters that the house was empty, therefore avoiding the valuable time an unnecessary search would take. I got in my car and drove away with my face covered with a cloth so that I could breath a little easier. It was hot that day but I could neither roll down my windows nor turn on the air conditioner. The first major intersection is about a mile from my home. I sat at the stop light with my windshield wipers on trying to keep the ash clear of my windshield so I could see. As I waited for the light to turn green, fire truck after fire truck crossed through the intersection. They came from all over the Bay Area. In fact, firefighters came from as far away as Canada and Australia to assist in the containment effort. In an emotional moment, I was struck by the fact that those brave firefighters were driving head long into what I was leaving … a wall of flames.

It took a couple of days before I knew that my home was safe. I couldn’t reach any of my neighbors because phone lines were down and cell service was sporadic.

I have thought many times about what that day felt like. How I felt when I had to leave my home, knowing that I might not see it again. How I felt when I saw all of those fire trucks from the Bay Area coming to assist a neighboring county. How firefighters step into harms way every day to help others. From this experience, I learned that while I have always known what firefighters do, I now understand what it means. You didn’t just protect my home, you preserved my memories and provided the promise that future memories were waiting for me.”