By CHRISTIAN MONTERROSA | Reporter
Opening its doors to first responders battling the Woolsey fire in neighboring cities, Porta Via Palisades hosted a Firefighter Appreciation Day on Monday, Nov. 19.
Firefighters were treated to complimentary breakfast, lunch and dinner, as the public was invited to dine at the restaurant and raise funds for the Los Angeles Fire Foundation.
With places as close by as Malibu facing the brutal destruction of the Woolsey fire, the people behind Porta Via Palisades felt it necessary to do something to help the community, and had been offering free breakfast to people displaced by the fire for several days.
“As it looked like firefighters were getting the upper hand on the fire, we thought, ‘What better way to start Thanksgiving week than to have a Firefighter Appreciation Day?’” said Laurence Cohen, a spokesperson for Porta Via.
For Cohen, this fire felt personal, as he lost his Malibu home in the 1993 fire. He remembers going to the Red Cross center that was staged on the corner of Swarthmore and Sunset Boulevard.
“This has been a very emotional journey and very personal, and there was nothing we wouldn’t have done to support this,” he said.
By lunchtime, the entire patio was filled with local and traveling firefighters, along with community members and Palisades Honorary Co-Mayors Janice and Billy Crystal, all looking to show their appreciation.
“I think the part that really surprised all of us was how supportive the community was,” said Cohen, as donation boxes filled to the brim, and Palisadians bought LAFD T-shirts and hats from Los Angeles Fire Department Station 69.
The power of the event showed itself at the end of the night, according to Cohen, as a group of four firefighters sat in Porta Via enjoying their dinner. In the booth next to them, two people who had lost their home came over to the fire crew and said, “We lost our home, but we are very grateful to you.”