OGDEN — Ogden Fire Captain Aaron Jackman and firefighter Ryan Hyland were not looking for any recognition when they stopped to help Inocencio Lopez with his fence Saturday.
"There are still people out there that still believe in loving your neighbor as you love yourself," said Lopez.
The 86-year-old is tearing out an old fence, and putting in a new, taller one that will offer more privacy and cut down on the noise from cars driving by on Washington Blvd. Lopez said the firefighters' simple, random act of kindness offered over a fencepost made him feel good about his neighborhood.
"We saw him working with some hand tools and decided to stop and lend a hand," said Jackman.
The Ogden firefighters work out of a station one block away from Lopez's home. They had already had a busy day, Jackman said, but they noticed Lopez toiling away, demolishing his old fence, as sunset neared. So they approached Lopez.
"I thought, 'Uh oh, I'm in trouble,' " Lopez said.
Lopez worried when he saw two uniformed men approaching him. He had a permit for the new fence, but feared he had done something wrong.
"I thought they were going to arrest me for trying to cut down a tree, or something," he said. "'No, no, we are here to help you,'" they told him.
Lopez had a big problem with the roots of his massive maple tree. A large root had grown under the fence, making the wood bulge and crack. The root had ruined the fence over the years. He was hacking away at the root with hand tools Saturday evening to get it cleared away for the new fence.
That's when the big help came in when his new friends showed up.
Lopez said they even had a chainsaw, the kind they use to cut through burning buildings.
"They fired that thing up. They knocked that thing out. Saves me a lot of work," Lopez said.
Lopez's daughter said her father is still a formidable worker, even at 86. He served in the army in Korea and worked at the Defense Depot Ogden nearly 30 years. He was ready to finish the job himself, but glad to have the extra muscle and companionship.
"I really appreciated it. It really made me feel good," Lopez said.
The firefighters said helping their neighbors is part of their tradition.
"We feel like we are servants and stewards of our neighborhoods and build strong communities," Jackman said.
Jackman pointed out they work dangerous jobs with long hours and emotional stress.
"We see the dark side of society at times," Jackman said. "But the one thing that always buoys us up is just simple service to people."
Lopez said, he aims to return the favor.
"I want to make it up to them somehow," he said.