Good morning, Ashland! I am honored and humbled to have been selected to be your new fire chief. This has been an incredible experience and surely a bit surreal, but I am thoroughly invested in continuing the outstanding services you currently receive from Ashland Fire & Rescue. Being afforded the opportunity to continue my career in this breathtaking area and this wonderful city is a privilege I do not take lightly.

My first two weeks here have been mostly spent getting to know the people who are Ashland Fire & Rescue. I am delighted to report that they are dedicated, progressive and conscientious professionals. The services they provide through fire suppression, emergency medical, disaster management, fire prevention, public education and community outreach are exceptional. I have to attribute much of this to the leadership of former Fire Chief John Karns and Acting Chief/Deputy Chief David Shepherd. Their vision and oversight is reflected in the excellence of the organization. I will aspire to continue their work and move the department ahead in a progressive, inclusive manner which strives to meet the current and future needs of the community.

During my review of the personnel and programs of this organization, it is very apparent that much good work has been accomplished. Through aggressive and progressive programs aimed at mitigation and preparedness, the city is in a much better position to cope with disaster than most communities. But we cannot be complacent! There is much more work to continue and many more concepts to explore. If there is anything we can sift out of the calamitous fires that occurred in Northern and Southern California this fall and winter, it is that there is now no “normal” when it comes to fire season. The reality we must come to grips with is that natural disasters are not predictable and don’t care what month of the year it is. We also must recognize that given the construct of our communities, everyone is in a potential disaster zone — whether this is by earthquake, flood, drought or fire, and even the consequences of the after-effects of a catastrophic incident. The residents of Santa Barbara County surely couldn’t have imagined the horrendous double disasters that have befallen them. We should all take notice.

Over the next few weeks, I will continue to educate myself on the policies and programs currently in place to provide for the preparedness and protection of our community. I will also continue getting to know our civic, business and community leaders as well as my colleagues in city government. However, I am very interested in getting to know you, the citizens of Ashland, and hear your thoughts. Through parts of five decades, I have experienced tremendous change in the training needs and types of services fire departments deliver. Those changes have led to dramatic improvements in the suppression and prevention of fires, the survival rate of emergency medical patients, the preparedness of our communities and the education of our constituents. Now we must persist in the advancement and innovation of these endeavors!

As your fire chief, I welcome your input and discussion. You can reach me by email at Michael.dorazi@ashland.or.us or by telephone at 541-522-2217.

— The Alarm Box, a column with local public safety information written by Ashland Fire & Rescue personnel, appears tri-weekly in the Tidings.