EL CAJON, Calif. – Disaster tees are all the rage near Gillespie Field in San Diego County.
Two roadside operations have been operating side-by-side peddling T-shirts, hats and sweats to weary firefighters outside the staging area at this regional airport.
"Just a souvenir," said Dean McPherson, the assistant fire chief of the Grand Coulee, Wash. fire department. "We try to get them if they have them."
One can opt for the "Southern California Oct. 2007 Ablaze" or "2007 Perfect Fire Storm" in shades of camo, green, black and even hot pink.
Both models list the names of the 13 largest fires ravaging the region and use flame-y fonts and fire trucks to dramatic effect.
"More or less it's a trophy. I've been there done that," said Robert Ascherin, who operates his table for River Rat Tees in Redding, Calif. He often sees Rebekah West, the woman who runs her table for Exceptional Fire Services, at the big Western blazes.
But it's a friendly rivalry. They set their prices to be the same: $15 for adult tees, $12 for kids.
"If there's a pretty large fire there's usually a fire shirt," West said.
It only takes a few hours for the companies to whip up the designs, which they print on portable silkscreen machines brought along to the scene of the fire-staging area.
For McPherson, who has been battling the Harris Fire along the Mexican border, the tee will be a reminder of his finest hour.
"This is the highlight of my career," McPherson said.