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The season of thanks came a little early for some firefighters in Washington state when a stranger picked up the tab for their groceries after the crew was called away on an emergency.
Firefighters from Central Pierce Fire & Rescue in Puyallup, outside Takoma, were at a local Safeway shopping for dinner on Oct. 25 when they were called to duty just as they approached the checkout counter.
The firefighters, who were from Station 66, decided to leave their full cart behind and told the clerk they'd be back after tending to the call, for a woman who needed CPR.
When they returned to the store hours later, they discovered someone had already checked them out.
"Enjoy your meals. Thanks for all you do! God Bless,” a note taped to one of the bags said. The stranger had shelled out about $60 for the food.
"It left quite the impression on them," Ed Hrivnak, Assistant Firechief, told TODAY.com. "They never talk about nice things that happen, but this one really touched them so they couldn't stop talking about it."
The department later took to Facebook to thank the good Samaritan.
"Whoever you are out there from the Safeway at 132nd at Meridian at South Hill, thank you so much for your generosity!!" said the caption of the post, which was shared and “liked” thousands of times.
Hrivnak told TODAY it’s a tradition for crews to try to eat at least one meal together when they are on call.
"They become each other's family away from their own family,” he said.
The Station 66 firefighters returned to the station and prepared the meal — a Facebook pic of the "finished product" showed grilled chicken, asparagus and baked potatoes — but just as they were putting the first bite in their mouths, they got another call.
Even though the food sat out for a while, they eventually got to enjoy it.
"They don't get many opportunities to sit down and enjoy a meal, so I'm sure whoever the anonymous stranger is realizes that and wanted to help people who spend their life caring for others," Hrivnak said.