Mickey Mouse wants to thank firefighters in Fresno and elsewhere in the state with free tickets to Disneyland for their efforts battling wildfires last year.
The Walt Disney Co. sent 618 one-day “park hopper” tickets good at its adjoining Disneyland and Disney California Adventure theme parks to Fresno Fire Chief Kerri Donis earlier this month – one for each of the city’s 309 firefighters and another for each to bring a guest to visit the parks before May 10. It’s a token of thanks for the department providing help during last year’s hectic wildfire season across California.
“We wanted to thank you and your dedicated firefighters for their heroic efforts,” park representatives wrote in a letter to Donis. The tickets are “in appreciation of the service and bravery of California firefighters, and the extraordinary year you have had. …”
Each ticket is valued at $167, bringing the total value of Disney’s donation in Fresno to more than $103,000. But before the city can accept the tickets, the donation has to be officially accepted by the Fresno City Council on Thursday. The council must approve acceptance of any donation with a collective value of more than $25,000.
“It really came out of the blue,” Donis said. “Someone brought a box up to my office, and there were envelopes with two tickets each and a letter thanking each firefighter. It’s something they’re sending out to all of the departments that helped out with the fires last year.”
It’s part of a larger promotion in which Disneyland is providing free tickets to major fire departments throughout California, said Donis, who added that theme parks have occasionally offered free admission to firefighters in appreciation for responding to wildfires. The tickets bear an image of Mickey Mouse shaking hands with a firefighter.
Disneyland representatives declined to disclose how many tickets the park is offering to firefighters in the state, but said the park was not directly threatened by wildfires last year.
Donis said the Fresno Fire Department sent 69 of its firefighters out of the city to help with 37 different California wildfires from last February through November.
In October, nearly two dozen fires raged across the state, burning almost 400 square miles and killing at least 42 people. In Southern California, smoke from wildfires cast an eerie orange glow over Disneyland and fueled concerns that fire danger might threaten to close the park. Another spate of wildfires scorched Southern California in December, prompting departments from throughout the Valley to send about 230 firefighters and 50 fire engines to help overwhelmed agencies in Los Angeles and Ventura counties.
In January, the Fresno Fire Department sent 16 people to help with mudslides that struck burned areas of Southern California.
Donis said she believes Fresno’s firefighters will appreciate the tickets. “We’re all here to protect and serve, and when we get called to help our partners in the rest of the state, we try to do that,” she said. “It’s kind of a special gesture that Disney is doing for us.”
The tickets come with a few catches. They expire May 10, and they’re only valid Mondays through Thursdays – so no weekend visits. There’s also a two-week blackout period from March 23 through April 8 covering the peak spring break period for students across the state. To use the tickets, the firefighter must show a department-issued ID at the gate as well as a photo ID such as a driver’s license, and whoever uses the guest ticket must be accompanied by a firefighter with the appropriate ID.
Firefighters who accept the tickets will also be required to report them under state Fair Political Practices Commission rules as a gift received by a public employee.