05 October 2020
Firefighters in the western United States have a new force on their side: Baby Yoda.
A 5-year-old boy from Oregon and his grandmother gave a Baby Yoda figurine to a donation center for firefighters on September 12. With it was a note that read, "Here is a friend for you in case you get lonely."
Since then, Baby Yoda has been to four wildfires in two states. The creature has flown in helicopters, tested people's temperatures for signs of the disease COVID-19, and even "used the Force" to move a firefighting tool.
A Facebook page called "Baby Yoda fights fires" has been documenting his trips and spreading smiles far and wide. More than 30,000 people and counting are following the page as he travels from crew to crew.
It is unbelievable how one small action "can create a wave of kindness," said Sasha Tinning. The 54-year-old Oregon woman saw the Baby Yoda while buying things to donate to the firefighters. Her grandson, Carver, was with her at the time.
"I turn around and this Baby Yoda is just looking right at me" and he was so cute, Tinning told The Associated Press. She said to her grandson, "Maybe we should take this to the firefighters.'"
The boy agreed and said that the creature could be their friend. "And I thought, ‘Everyone needs a friend, especially now,'" Tinning said. She wrote a note to that effect to the firefighters and her grandson signed it.
The note is still with Baby Yoda today, safely inside a small plastic bag on his back. Also on the note is the telephone number of Tyler Eubanks, the horse dentist organizing donations to the firefighters. She presented Baby Yoda to them and is now operating the Facebook page.
As the firefighters take pictures of Baby Yoda's travels, they send Eubanks the pictures so she can put them on Facebook. The pictures have brought smiles to a lot of locals.
Jacki Wittman lives in Columbia City, Oregon. On the Facebook page, she recently wrote that she looks for new posts several times during a normal day.
Diane Arzente also watches the page. She wrote, "Baby Yoda and a little boy are spreading so much love and happiness all over ... Keep the force going!"
Tyler Eubanks cannot believe the reaction.
She said she thinks our troubled times helped fuel Baby Yoda's popularity. "They're having fun and it's taking stress out of a very dark situation."
Wildfires in the western U.S. have burned millions of hectares, destroyed homes and killed people, including firefighters.
Firefighters have the difficult job of walking through rural areas and forests, digging fire lines and working 16-hour days. And they are away from their families for weeks.
For them, Baby Yoda is more than just a plaything.
He has been lifting people's spirits, said Sergeant Jaebyn Drake, a firefighter with the Oregon Air National Guard. He put an American flag on Baby Yoda's head.
"A lot of people on my crew, I showed them the note and everything and they just loved it," Drake said. A few people even started to cry. "It just really meant a lot to us and it was really emotional for a lot of people."
Drake said it was extra special for him as a longtime Star Wars fan who also loves The Mandalorian television show. Baby Yoda first appeared on that program, and quickly became a big hit on the internet.
TJ Ramos is an air tactical group supervisor with the Oregon Department of Forestry. He has taken "selfie" pictures with Baby Yoda in his helicopter. And he took Baby Yoda on a flight over Oregon's Holiday Farm Fire on September 21.
Ramos remembers when he got to announce to crews at the fire's helicopter base that Baby Yoda had arrived. By then, the gifted figurine was famous among all the fire crews.
You could immediately see everyone feel a little better. "Some smiles came on some straight faces and it was a different day," Ramos said. He said it was "just a lift to everyone" and "added almost a connection to home life."
Baby Yoda is now so in-demand after his trips through Oregon and Colorado that fire crews from other states and Canada have asked that he join them.
I'm Alice Bryant.
The Associated Press reported this story. Alice Bryant adapted it for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.
Words in This Story
figurine – n. a small figure or model of a person or creature made of plastic, word or another material
page – n. one section of a Web site that is found at a single address
cute – adj. having a pleasing and usually youthful appearance
bag – n. a container made of thin that opens at the top and is used for holding or carrying things
dentist – n. a person whose job is to care for people's teeth
post – n. a message, photo or video on social media
stress – n. a state of mental tension and worry caused by problems in your life, work, etc.
tactical – adj. of, relating to, or used for a specific plan that is created to achieve a particular goal in war, politics, etc.