Cheers and jeers

Cheers — to all the firefighters and other emergency personnel who battled two large wildfires to a standstill Monday in Ashland and Medford. Local agencies were ably assisted by fire crews who responded from across the state after Gov. Ted Kulongoski invoked the state's Conflagration Act (see the letter from two fire officials below on this page). Cheers as well to residents in the fires' path who calmly and quickly evacuated their homes when directed to leave as flames approached.

Despite scorching heat and high winds, only one house was lost in the Ashland blaze and none in the Medford fire near the base of Roxy Ann Peak. Air tankers also proved their worth once again, dropping loads of retardant to slow the fires' advance while helicopters dropped bucketloads of water.

Cheers — to another successful Southern Oregon Stand Down and all those who made it possible. The annual event provides a variety of free services to homeless and disadvantaged military veterans. Legal assistance, dental care and job counseling are just a few of the services available. More than 400 vets benefited this year.

Jeers — to staffers at Washington's Eastern State Hospital who apparently thought it was a good idea to allow a criminally insane killer to leave the mental hospital on a field trip to a county fair. The man was acquitted by reason of insanity in 1987 for murdering an elderly woman in Sunnyside, Wash., dousing her body in gasoline to confuse search dogs and burying her in her own flower garden. He has a history of escape attempts and violent attacks on others. Fortunately, he was captured three days later without incident, but he should never have been allowed to leave the state hospital in the first place.

Cheers — to the quick actions of workers at the Rogue Transfer and Recycling Station on Table Rock Road, and to the presence of a portable defibrillator that successfully restored a dump truck driver's heartbeat. A tip of the hat as well to Matt Weis, a Medford resident who witnessed the incident and helped perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation on the driver.

Cheers — finally, we raise a frosty glass to Ben Benjamin and Melissa Jones, who started a spelling bee on Wednesday evenings at Louie's Bar and Grill on the Ashland Plaza watering hole. We're big supporters of accurate spelling, not to mention good beer.

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