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Ellen DeGeneres, Portia de Rossi make generous donation to fire dept.

The couple donated more than $14,500 worth of appliances such as coffee makers and a barbecue to the Redlands Fire Dept. to thank them for their service

By Kristina Hernandez
Redlands Daily Facts

REDLANDS, Calif. — As a thank you for its response to the Thomas fire, Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi donated thousands of dollars worth of appliances and gift cards to the Redlands Fire Department.

The longtime couple made the donation earlier this month after discovering a crew from Redlands Fire were among responding units that helped protect their home along a stretch of the wildfire’s path.

"(Their) house, along with others in the immediate area were directly threatened,” said Jim Topoleski, a battalion chief for the department. “One of our engines just happened to be deployed in that location.”

Redlands Fire were among the thousands of Southern California fire personnel deployed to assist with the incident, which burned more than 281,000 acres, making it the largest wildfire in modern California history.

The couple’s donation came as a surprise to local fire personnel.

When contacted by DeGeneres’ people, Topoleski thought the couple was going to make a small donation to the department. Instead, more than $14,500 worth of appliances -- such as coffee makers and a barbecue -- and gift cards had been delivered.

“We were overwhelmed,” he said.

Donations were placed in a secure location until the acceptance of donations were authorized by the Redlands City Council. The authorization was unanimously approved on Tuesday, Jan. 16 with no further discussion.

The department is looking to use some of the donations internally, but will “pay it forward” by donating a significant portion to local groups with a need in the near future.

“We will be generous with the generosity given to us,” Topoleski said.

The longtime couple have expressed their thanks to fire personnel called to battle the blaze on DeGeneres’ longtime talk show -- The Ellen Show -- and on social media.

On Dec. 14, a photo of Redlands firefighters was posted to Ellen DeGeneres’ Twitter and Instagram accounts with the caption, “Last night. I am so incredibly grateful to these and all the firefighters. Thank you.”

The image received several similar sentiments from the comedienne’s many followers.

The Thomas fire started on Dec. 4 in the Santa Paula/Ventura area and spread into Santa Barbara County.

Thousands were evacuated from the fire’s path, including the DeGeneres and de Rossi, and hundreds of homes and thousands of structures were destroyed.

The fire is 100 percent contained, according to a Cal Fire statement released Jan. 12.

Copyright 2018 Redlands Daily Facts