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LA hosts firefighters to open Community Tour

MLB.com @kengurnick

LOS ANGELES -- Firefighters who risked their lives protecting communities in the recent deadly California wildfires enjoyed a welcomed respite on Monday at Dodger Stadium.

About 350 first responders were treated to lunch and a batting-practice session by the Dodgers on the opening day of the club's 15th annual Dodgers Love L.A. Community Tour, presented by Bank of America.

LOS ANGELES -- Firefighters who risked their lives protecting communities in the recent deadly California wildfires enjoyed a welcomed respite on Monday at Dodger Stadium.

About 350 first responders were treated to lunch and a batting-practice session by the Dodgers on the opening day of the club's 15th annual Dodgers Love L.A. Community Tour, presented by Bank of America.

Dodgers players Alex Wood, Ross Stripling, Justin Turner, Kenley Jansen, Enrique Hernandez, Joc Pederson and Trayce Thompson participated in the event, which opened with a moment of silence in memory of Cory Iverson, a Cal Fire engineer killed in the Thomas Fire last month.

"It's a wonderful escape from what we've experienced the last month and a half," assistant chief of Ventura County Fire Department Vaughan Miller said. "We've been shoulder to shoulder with our citizens as they've endured an incredible situation, and it does wear on our personnel. For the Dodgers' organization to give us a little time on the field, where many of us have dreamt to be, is fantastic."

Local fire departments have now shifted into winter mode, dealing with mudslides like the one that devastated Montecito in Santa Barbara County, where the Thomas Fire left hillsides barren and vulnerable to inevitable rains.

"We know the fight isn't over yet," Miller said. "We're geared up for flood planning and search and rescue. So events like this pop us out of the routine for just a day, and we appreciate it for sure. The death of Cory Iverson affects us all. There are personnel here today that were on the front lines with him when he died. Getting away for a day, we're really grateful."

Monday's events -- Stripling and Wood also joined fourth-graders at Para Los Ninos for a creative writing session -- kicked off a weeklong community outreach that culminates in Saturday's FanFest at Dodger Stadium.

Tweet from @DodgersFdn: Just @Awood45 and @RossStripling brainstorming what super powers the leading character will have in the original books they���re creating! #LADFgives #EducationLiteracy #ThePowerOfBaseball #DodgersLoveLA pic.twitter.com/MMwlgNJNtC

"It's just a small way for us to thank you," senior vice president for Bank of America Garrett Gin said, addressing the firefighters. "All of your work has been in the news recently. But more importantly, it's what you do every day that don't make the headlines that makes it possible for all of us to enjoy this life in Southern California."

One of the Los Angeles City firefighters who stood out in the crowd was Captain Chip Cervantes, who wore a Dodger Blue firefighter helmet with a Dodgers logo given to him by his wife on Father's Day.

"I've dreamt about being on this field since I was a kid," said Cervantes, whose department helped battle the Thomas and Skirball fires. "We try to put others first, but it takes a toll on the family. Just being out there, on this field, is awesome."

Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers for MLB.com since 2001.

Los Angeles Dodgers