SALINAS, Calif. (KION) If you drive down Highway 68, you can't miss the dozens of signs thanking firefighters. They were placed there by residents from around Monterey County.
"This sign was pretty much just a token of our gratitude to the firefighters. We want to show them that they are appreciated," said Alan Lopez, who made signs this week.
The River and Carmel fire forced thousands of residents to evacuate. Businesses were impacted too. Toro Place Cafe is just one example. "We actually had to close early last Wednesday because of all the smoke and ash here. It was just too much," said Toro Place Cafe server, Kristine Shortes.
Wednesday, the cafe is back open. Chef, Rubio Mesa, is hard at work cooking free, hot meals for firefighters.
Rubio plans to cook all day for first responders. It's the best way she knows how to say "thanks" for protecting the cafe that she has called home for 25 years.
"Regularly, I come in at 5:45 in the morning. For these guys I'll come in at 5 in the morning. I will stay here until 8 at night. I don't care. I'll stay here to cook for these guys," said Mesa.