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Ashland's first responders

Looking over Ashland Fire & Rescue department records it appears that we started this segment back in 2015. So, let me start by thanking the Ashland Tidings for this great partnership. Through both of our efforts we have been able to reach thousands of residents with important health, safety and fire-prevention information.

As Monday was National First Responders Day, I feel it would be appropriate to talk a little about the men and women who help keep Ashland safe. First responders are just that — those who respond to emergency incidents and usually arrive on scene first. Within the City of Ashland, we would probably classify our first responders as our peace officers and the firefighter/paramedics here at Ashland Fire & Rescue (AF&R).

First responders are tasked with protecting and preserving life, the environment and your property. The first responders who work for the City of Ashland are a dedicated group who have made a conscious decision that they would be willing to risk their lives if they thought they could save yours. This is not something to be taken lightly. And while we hope it never comes to that, please understand that they have made that commitment to this community.

While police and firefighters are routinely first on the scene of an emergency, they would not be able to do what they do without the help of others. Our dispatchers make sure we are responding as quickly as possible with the information we need. Our street department makes sure we have safe roads to travel on when the weather turns icy. Our water department maintains the fire hydrants and water mains needed during firefighting operations. Our Community Emergency Response Team provides for firefighter shelter and nutrition during long lasting events. Radio technicians make sure our data and voice communication equipment are working properly and our mechanics keep our vehicles tuned up and ready for response. It certainly is a team effort, and neither the fire or police department would be able to do what we do on our own.

Over the years I have heard all sorts of definitions that try to capture the essence of what a first responder truly is. While not exactly inaccurate, definitions like “a first responder is any individual who runs toward an event rather than away” or “first responders are the primary line of defense” are more Hollywood-esque in nature.

We have our own definition here at AF&R. We like, “today we help someone in their time of need.” We understand that most emergencies are not life threatening, that most emergencies do not involve terrorist plots, ravaging wildfires and mass casualty incidents. And while we are prepared for those events should they occur, we most often respond to simple emergencies. Things like trip and falls, shortness of breath, car fires and bicycle crashes make up the day to day workload of our first responders. Some medical emergencies are life threatening, most are not. Some fires destroy entire homes, but most do not. No matter what the emergency, Ashland’s first responder are just around the corner, waiting to assist you, in your time of need.

David Shepherd is the Fire Chief at Ashland Fire & Rescue. He may be contacted at shepherd@ashland.or.us

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