Family, friends gather to honor fallen volunteer firefighter

JUNCTION CITY, Calif. - Family and friends are expected to continue gathering here to honor a female volunteer firefighter killed over the weekend while on duty battling a massive, wind-driven brush fire near Redding.

Karen Jane Savage, 44, died Saturday when a fire engine suddenly lurched onto her along state Highway 299 near the town of Bella Vista. Savage leaves behind three daughters, aged 6, 9 and 25.

''She was a volunteer. No pay, no gas,'' said longtime companion Bob Feezer. ''God love her. If you were alive when she got on scene, you were going out alive. She never lost anyone. It didn't matter if you were a drug addict or an AIDS person, she would help you.''

Feezer, a fellow volunteer firefighter and the father of Savage's younger daughters, said he witnessed the accident. The incident is under investigation by the California Department of Forestry and the California Highway Patrol.

''We all just loved and adored her,'' said friend Mary Hitchcock-Dowdy. ''She gave herself to her community. She was a true - in the real sense of the word - care giver.''

Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante announced the flag at the Capitol building would fly at half-staff in her honor today.

Gov. Gray Davis expressed condolences in a statement Saturday night.

''Her selfless and heroic response to the call to the fire line is indeed a profile in courage,'' the statement said. ''Without volunteers like Karen, the ravenous appetite of wildfires in California would devour many more homes and endanger many more lives than have been lost thus far.''

Services for Savage are scheduled for 2 p.m. Oct. 24 in Junction City.

The 25,900-acre brush fire near Redding was 50 percent contained Sunday evening. Full containment of the fire was expected by midnight. Savage's death has been the only reported injury from that fire thus far.

Junction City is about 200 miles northwest of Sacramento.


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