Firefighter "panhandles" to raise shutdown awareness

CENTRAL VALLEY, California -- A federal firefighter based in the Central Valley had a unique idea to raise awareness about the effects of the government shutdown.

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Efren Balderas dressed up in a mask and held a sign out on the corner of Fresno and Shaw Saturday, as if he was a panhandler. His sign announced he was a furloughed firefighter struggling to pay his bills, but he wasn't asking for money.

"I was there to spread a message," the U.S. Forest Service firefighter told Action News. "I was given a lot of thank yous, praise, and hugs. People did offer me money. I told them that's not what I was there for. I was just there to bring awareness, just to get it out to people that it's hard on us."

Balderas says federal firefighters will be missing their second paychecks later this week, and they're all making sacrifices now.

He's drastically cutting back on spending for himself, his wife and their children.

Balderas is hoping an agreement to give back pay to furloughed workers will help him catch up on bills when the shutdown finally ends. But for now, he's trying to find ways to postpone bills.
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