The American tradition of Thanksgiving is a wonderful way to start the holiday season every year. This year the thing that first comes to mind for me and I’m sure many others is gratitude for having our homes – and our lives - after the October fires. It is amazing how quickly things can turn from normal to tragic. I feel fortunate that the fires did not reach our city, and that we have a city team and a community that responded heroically when needed most.
My gratitude extends first to those on the front lines in fighting the fires. The men and women of our Public Safety Department responded when the call came, with many spending 24 hours or more doing all that they could to save lives and homes. Some continued on the line despite losing their homes.
I am also grateful to those who served behind the scenes, such as our dispatchers who handled hundreds of calls that first night and many more during that horrific week. I admire and appreciate their calmness and ability to provide comfort in times of extreme stress.
We were also well-served by those who set up shelters, started cooking breakfast at 4:30 a.m. for our neighbors from evacuated areas, and did all that they could to provide support. Our animal shelter responded by providing safe haven for 100 pets, most of who have thankfully been reunited with their owners. Our communications team kept putting out the best information we had to keep our residents informed.
I also am grateful to live in a community that supports each other and those who live nearby. I know that many residents donated food, clothing, funds and other items to the victims. Many of our businesses, churches, and civic organizations responded almost instantly and continue to raise money or donate what victims need. For example, Mark Pippin of Innovative Screen Printing usually donates dozens of bicycles to needy families each year; he will donate 400 bikes to fire victims this holiday season.
Our firefighters fought huge fires and flames and the fires will remain in our memories for years to come. I will also remember and be forever grateful that no matter the size of the fires, the hearts and generosity of our community are bigger still.