OS-Fire-fullby Kelly Babcock, Hub Staff

A quiet little city in Southwestern Ontario, Owen Sound may appear to the outside world to be a collection of dissimilar purposes held together by geography and good intentions. Is it a tourist destination? An industrial town? A retirement community? An arts enclave? A cultural centre?

Owen Sound is all of those things, and more. But on Monday morning, while the smoke of those recent fires continued to pile up into the sky of a new and terrible day, Owen Sound again showed what it really is. One solid community.

By 5AM the mayor was up and on the ground assisting stalwart firefighters. Police too were on scene, working hard to extinguish the potential for more damage just as surely as the firefighters were working hard to extinguish the blazes of 15 households.

Commuters waited patiently in streets already overcrowded from construction elsewhere, that now were made more congested by the closing of streets for emergency crews to work as they exhausted themselves in the containing and dousing of the flames.

By the next day, Tuesday, the first sounds of a benefit event being planned were heard, with more to follow. How could one benefit possibly be enough, our city seemed to sense without discussion that more would be needed. By Friday the first formal one, a radio telethon, was on.

The city's United Way was already active in matching generosity with need. People who had lost everything were being housed in hotel rooms with daily needs being met.

All the while, emotions ran high. Many, openly angry, talked of retribution, but calmer hearts and heads accepted the failure as humanity's and searched for lessons and meaning and hope and strength to carry them through.

Offers of food and money and clothing were made and accepted. Musicians volunteered to play anywhere and anytime that any fundraiser could be put together.

The police were brilliant in finding and containing the arsonists, in putting the towns fears to rest and bringing us to a place where we could focus on rebuilding instead of worrying about further destruction. They did nothing less than give us a new start, a point in time where we could begin the long hard job of healing.

The flames that wrapped houses in their destructive grip are long since out, the burn of betrayal is starting to heal, but Owen Sound is still on fire. It's on fire in a good way. Owen Sound burns with the warm glow of community. Neighbours tend the hearths around which friendship is kindled. Citizens fan the flames of love and care and this city burns brightly with all the characteristics of a good home, a good place to be, a good place.

And I live here, thank goodness.