By
NCTimes.net
updated 11/7/2007 2:01:37 AM ET 2007-11-07T07:01:37

California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection firefighters of Engine 3387 had been sent from San Marcos to the Tecate area southeast of San Diego on Oct. 21, the day the fire erupted.The crew members, including fire Capt. Raymond Rapue, firefighter Andrew Pikop and two others whose names have not been released, were overcome by flames while coming to the aid of a father and son stranded near their burning home and rescued by a helicopter pilot who landed on still-smoldering ground.

The father, 52-year-old Thomas Varshock, died in the fire. His teenage son, Richard Varshock, was seriously burned and was listed in critical condition Tuesday at the Burn Center, hospital officials said.

Of the three firefighters still hospitalized, one may be able to go home as soon as Sunday, said Mike Vogt, a battalion chief for CalFire. Another firefighter was taken out of the intensive care unit Monday and the fourth remains in intensive care, he said.

News of the injured firefighters' recovery comes as a relief to their co-workers at fire stations throughout the county, some said Tuesday. Two of the injured crew were normally stationed in the Rincon station in Pauma Valley, but had been working out of San Marcos when the fires broke out; the other two were based in San Marcos, firefighters said.

Fellow firefighters heard that the fire had burned over the engine crew within hours of the crew being hurt, but didn't find out until later who the injured personnel were, Valley Center fire Capt. Saul Villagomez said.

"Everyone felt the same thing, we were worried to death about what happened," Valley Center fire Capt. Austin Browne said.

Firefighters said they have since visited the burn unit whenever possible, and some have even shaved the engine's number, "87," into the back of their heads in honor of the injured.

"It's not an easy thing, but each day gets a little easier, as we find out they're a little better," said San Marcos fire Capt. Becki Benson, who works with the injured crew.

Firefighters have also conducted fundraising boot drives -- where personnel collect money in their boots -- at Escondido's Westfield North County mall and at firefighter base camps, which have so far raised more than $40,000 for the victims, said Capt. Mike Lopez, of CalFire.

Another fundraiser, selling hot dogs and other snacks, is scheduled from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at Wal-Mart in Poway, 13425 Community Road.

A donation of $30,000 from the Chargers will also aid the injured firefighters, Lopez said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. Contact staff writer Sarah Wilkins at (760) 740-3524 or swilkins@nctimes.com.

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