Circling the wagons?

Published 9:28 pm Thursday, October 8, 2015

To the editor:

The decision of the Town of Tryon to recognize the Fire Department for its efforts in the fire that killed Trey Miller should be a wake up call to everyone in the area. Why in the world would the town government recognize them for the worst possible outcome of their job, a fatality? Do we award doctors when their patients die? Was this a poorly thought out self esteem builder like when every kid on the soccer team gets a trophy at the end of the season? Or is it an attempt to circle the wagons, as it appears to be. And this death comes right on the heels of another devastating fire on Wilderness Road. Does the town believe that a picture in the paper will erase the controversies surrounding the responses to these fires? Does the town think this will make us feel safer?

More importantly, the town’s public praise for the Fire Department was disrespectful to Trey Miller’s loved ones, who have asked legitimate questions about why the fire was not put out more quickly and other troubling aspects of the response. The decision to knowingly put the feelings of firefighters above those of grieving family members showed an inexcusable lack of judgment and accountability.

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The mayor and several council members were at a recent Eastside Advisory Committee meeting where family members who witnessed the fire directly contested the Fire Department’s account of its response. The mayor was not at the fire, nor was Fire Chief Joey Davis (who also happens to serve as town manager – he is his own boss). For them to summarily dismiss the eyewitness accounts – and broadcast their decision in such a public display of self-congratulation – is inexcusable and grossly disrespectful.

The accolades for the fire fighters came across as even more bizarre given the recognition was intended for the police officers who stepped in and picked up hoses to finally get water on the fire.

The Town under the guidance of Joey Davis has mishandled this event from the second the 911 call of “structure fire with entrapment” went out. I can’t help but think that this level of tone deafness would not have been possible if our town manager were not also our fire chief. This mingling of duties and loyalties does not serve the citizens of our town well and leaves us all vulnerable.

I extend love and deep condolences to the family and the community that lost such a beloved person in Trey Miller. I wish that this were the town government’s focus as well.

Margaret Curtis

Tryon, N.C.