Fire response showed Ashland is exceptional

The fire that destroyed 11 homes and damaged three others was an event that will long be remembered in our city. I went to the scene of the fires as crews battled the blaze to assess the situation and offer my assistance.

I have had the opportunity to be on scene at many critical incidents over the years and was provided first-hand experience of the New Year's Day Flood that hit Ashland in 1997. I have watched people crumble under the pressure of such events, both private citizens and those paid and expected to perform. What I witnessed both at the scene of the fires and since has reaffirmed my belief in the exceptionalness of our community.

What I observed at the fires was horrific and unprecedented for many communities; so much lost, so quickly. To say that concern was in the air as to whether the fires would be stopped before even more would be lost would be an understatement.

However, as I began to watch and assess the situation, I immediately understood that our fire chief, John Karns, and the assisting crews were gaining control of the situation. I watched a team of people working confidently and with purpose to deal with the situation at hand.

In speaking with Chief Karns and later Police Chief Terry Holderness, it was clear that both men were confident in the abilities of their people and their ability to address the current crisis and had a clear plan in moving forward. When you are in such situations, it is easy to get the measure of a person. What I observed in these two leaders and the actions of their people inspired a great deal of confidence and hope.

In the days following, what I observed from our community provided me much of the same feeling. I observed citizens instantly give their time, money and efforts to help those who lost so much. There was no prodding necessary for people to get involved. Whether it was the volunteers of the Community Eemergency Response Team or simply someone donating what they had to those in need, the response was swift and meaningful.

I attended the neighborhood meeting last Wednesday night and met some of the individuals who lost their homes and neighbors who lived nearby. Again, what I observed was inspiring. I observed a group of resilient people who refuse to give up and crumble in the face of adversity. They were shaken, but not broken. They were ready to move forward and confident in their abilities to do so.

What I have witnessed over the past week reminded me a great deal of 1997 when our community was confronted with the devastating floods. While we may fight over politics or the hot issue of the day, when the time comes, we rise up and pull together. We take care of one another and are willing to confront whatever threatens us head-on to ensure that our little town remains the exceptional place that it is.

Thank you and God Bless all the city staff who swung into action to fight the fire and to all of the members of the community who have also swung into action to help their fellow citizens in need.

Greg Lemhouse is a member of the Ashland City Council.

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