January 31, 2022

Rep. Joe Neguse offers congressional commendations to Marshall Fire first responders

It’s hard for Mike Chard to believe it’s been a month since the Marshall Fire ignited, burning through eastern Boulder County and quickly becoming the most destructive fire in state history.

“The response is one aspect of it, but then comes that whole second wave,” he said.

Chard is the director of Boulder’s Office of Emergency Management, the entity tasked with preparing for, responding to and recovering from natural disasters and other large-scale emergencies.

On Monday, he was one of many who accepted an official congressional commendation from Rep. Joe Neguse for their efforts during the fire. Neguse first recognized the entire Boulder OEM, with later stops planned to the Boulder County Sheriff’s Office, Avista Adventist Hospital and two Louisville businesses. He planned to recognize city officials in Louisville and Superior as well as at least one fire chief along the way.

“In the last few weeks, your work during the course of the Marshall Fire, in particular, is being applauded by everyone in our county and really across the state,” Neguse said, standing in the OEM. “But the truth is you all do life-saving work each and every day and a lot of that goes unheralded.”

“One thing that was apparent to us, really in the earliest hours of the fire, is just how much the community relies on the OEM,” he added.

The congressman, a Democrat, lives in Lafayette, a community not far from the most impacted areas of Louisville and Superior.

In Neguse’s mind, those who continued to serve the public, facing evacuations and uncertainty about the fate of their own homes, have a rare and “special kind of courage.”

Curtis Johnson understands this firsthand. As a division chief with the Boulder County Sheriff’s Office, the Louisville resident came into work on Dec. 30, despite having the day off, understanding his home was in the path of the fire and ultimately learning he’d lost it.

While Neguse calls it courage, Johnson said it’s helped him view the evolving situation through a different and arguably more empathetic lens.

“When we’ve dealt with fire or flood victims, and they express to you that you really don’t know how impactful it is unless you’ve gone through it, I totally get that now,” he said.

“It’s motivated me to work harder, especially when you recognize things that we could maybe be doing better,” Johnson added.

A flood, a mass shooting, several fires — Boulder County has experienced its fair share of disasters and emergencies in the past decade or so.

Chard said he’s ready for the tempo to calm down.

The term “resiliency” can be an overused one, particularly in the halls of the United States Capitol, Neguse told the OEM.

“But Boulder County really does live resilience. Just think about the last decade, right?” Neguse said. “Disaster after disaster and yet always finding a way to build back and come together and do what’s necessary to ensure that we still have a community that we all can call home.”

By:  Deborah Swearingen
Source: Daily Camera