Tragic fire brings forth heroic responses

TRAGEDY STRUCK IN DOWNTOWN Plymouth last week. And a legion of heroic volunteers responded.

An early-morning fire struck a historic building on East Mill Street Thursday, Nov. 9.

Law enforcement, first response and fire department personnel were on the scene within minutes and were able to prevent a much wider tragedy or destruction.

Unfortunately, they were not able to save one fire victim, a mother who tragically went back into the burning building in an attempt to save her children, not knowing that they were already safely outside the building.

All the other residents of the six apartments in the building at 408 E. Mill St. survived, with only two suffering smoke inhalation.

More than 130 firefighters from 19 area departments struggled six hours to get the fire under control, successfully, while also preventing the fire from spreading to adjacent buildings on either side which shared walls with the burning building.

Everyone involved would wish there had been no fatalities, but all those involved in fighting the fire deserve great thanks and praise for their tireless efforts that prevented a much worse tragedy.

For many of the volunteer firefighters who struggled long and hard against the fire, it was the continuation of an already long day, as many of them had responded the previous evening to a fire in the town of Rhine that destroyed a home and garage there.

These are all men and women who already have full-time jobs who volunteer their time to answer the call when fire or emergency strikes. Some of them do receive a small stipend for fire calls, meetings and trainings, but it comes nowhere near equalling the sacrifice they make or the hours they devote to their duties.

Fortunately, the kind of situation they responded to that Thursday is still a rare occurrence here – and hopefully will remain so. But it should give us all added security and peace of mind to know that, when that call does come, they all respond with dedication and professionalism to protect us.

After the fire was quelled came the hard part of putting back together the lives disrupted by the fire.

Again, many caring and compassionate people stepped forward to help in that effort.

The American Red Cross put together a “multi-agency resource center” for those impacted by the fire the next day at Redeemer Lutheran Church. The many resources available helped to meet not only the physical needs of those displaced by the fire but also, perhaps more importantly, their psychological needs.

Many throughout the community – family, friends, neighbors or strangers – have stepped up and continue to step up to offer aid and assistance to those left in need by the fire.

As Red Cross volunteers and other officials at Friday’s MARC heard time and again from those they were counseling or aiding, “It could have been me.” That’s why so many of us have stepped up and stepped forward to help in any way possible, because next time it could be you or me – we never know.

Altogether, it has shown the spirit of the community in response to tragedy in our midst – something we see every time something like this happens and something that should make us all proud and humble.

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