Ashland Police Officer Jason Daoust was on duty and directing traffic on Oak Knoll Drive in the minutes after a fire erupted there Tuesday when he discovered that his home was among the 11 burning.
Ashland Police Officer Jason Daoust was directing traffic on Oak Knoll Drive in the minutes after a fire erupted there Tuesday when he discovered that his house was among 11 engulfed in flames.
Daoust continued to direct traffic and help his neighbors evacuate as his home burned, officials said Wednesday.
"I knew I needed to help my colleagues as best I could to get the surrounding homes evacuated," Daoust said. "I just tried to block out my personal loss and do the best job I could."
When the smoke cleared Wednesday, all that remained of Daoust's home at 815 Oak Knoll Drive, which he shared with his girlfriend, Christine Clark, was a black pile of rubble: a fireplace, scraps of walls, a doorknob.
Mayor John Stromberg on Wednesday lauded Daoust's work during the fire.
"I'm just so impressed with his dedication and ability to take care of the city's needs, as his own home was burning," Stromberg said. "It was remarkable."
Daoust, an Ashland High School and Southern Oregon University graduate, volunteered to continue working Tuesday evening, even after Police Chief Terry Holderness told him he could leave.
"He was there for quite a while and he was willing to stay and continue to work," Holderness said. "I had to essentially tell him, 'No, you need to leave and get things taken care of.' "
Daoust said he doesn't see himself as a hero.
"As a police officer, you have to put public safety as your highest priority, and any police officer, I believe, would have done the same thing," he said. "I didn't do anything heroic at all, in my opinion."
The Ashland native surveyed the destruction of his home for the past seven years on Wednesday.
"It's just completely leveled, and just to see the whole neighborhood that way, too — it's pretty traumatic," he said. "People are just in shock."
Daoust said he was thankful that no one was injured in the blaze.
"To see my neighbors panic-stricken and my house burning — it was a very difficult situation," he said. "We got some people evacuated, and thank God nobody was hurt in the fire. Who knows what would have happened if it had been at night?"
The Ashland Police Department is providing assistance to Daoust, who has been with the department for three years, Holderness said.
Ashland Police Community Service Officer Kip Keeton said he offered to share his clothing with Daoust.
"I told him that he can have anything in my closet, because we're the same size and he lost everything," he said. "He's like my brother, so I'm feeling for him."
Clark escaped from the home with the couple's dog, but she didn't have time to grab anything else, Keeton said.
"She went back to get what she could, and it was too late," he said. "The house was toast."
Keeton said he admired Daoust's commitment to the community.
"He's such a good guy," Keeton said. "He headed up here and saw what was going on, and he just put his emotions on hold for awhile, because he had a job to do, he was on duty."
Contact reporter Hannah Guzik at 541-482-3456, ext. 226, or firstname.lastname@example.org.