Almeda Fire heroes honored with music

ASHLAND, Ore. — The ‘Rogue Valley Symphony’ honored first responders with the gift of song on Wednesday.

“It was like the soundtrack to something that was exceptional. And we hope to never do again,” said Chris Chambers, Ashland Fire and Rescue Division Chief.

The music, bringing Chambers and others back to the night of the fatal Almeda Fire; the fire destroyed more than 2,800 structures and devastated entire cities in its wake.

“There’s really no way to describe how it felt out there,” said Chambers. “Just being surrounded by flames, but also just watching so many people’s lives be altered forever.”

That night, Ashland Fire and Rescue Engineer Shannon Turner says he was in Bakersfield, California listening to radio traffic for hours.

“They’re my brothers, my sisters. I spend one third of my life at the fire house,” said Turner.

Turner says he rushed back to join the fight, but is still filled with regret.

“For them to be putting their lives on the line and for me not to be here. I can’t ever make it up to them,” he said.

As for community members like Joelle Graves, the performance was a way to pay tribute to the sacrifices Chambers, Turner, and so many others made.

“You know it brought that day back. I can’t not cry. We have too much to be grateful for,” said Graves, executive director of the ‘Rogue Valley Symphony.’

Graves says the non-profit choose to play three ‘fanfares’ or ceremonial songs to honor the first responders.

“I don’t think we say thank you enough in our culture. Honestly, it was a lot of effort for us to go to and people could see how much it took us to pack up, but it doesn’t come close to the amount of gratitude everyone feels,” she said.

Although the two men shy away at being called heroes, they say it’s this kind of love and support that makes everything they do worthwhile.

“I want to hug every citizen that’s ever thanked me for what I do and I want to turn around and hug my own crew. To stand up there and be thanked by the community is just incredible,” said Turner.

The non-profit will be performing at other locations this week, such as Talent Middle School and the Talent-Phoenix Fire District 5 Station.

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