Friends, neighbors, and fellow citizens of Lakeland, I just spent the afternoon with Perry and Sonek Ferrell. While their home is a total loss from the fire yesterday, they are both OK and in good spirits. They have an awesome network of friends and family which we all know is crucial for getting us through tragedies such as this…. If you don’t know the Ferrell’s, they are two of the most kind hearted and giving people I know! … As I spoke with Perry it was very emotional and he continuously credited our Shelby County Firefighters for being on the scene in just under 4 minutes and immediately making sure everyone was out of the house and safe while setting up their equipment to fight the blaze…. As I understand it this fire was very hard to fight because it started on the back side of the house and access to the back side (lake side) of the house was difficult. Also, the wind was a factor as it was blowing to the south off the lake and fanning the fire. This also made fighting it much more difficult… Perry could not get out the words for how much he appreciated our Shelby County Firefighters, and with tears in my eyes, I told him, I understand and I believe we have the best Firefighters around!…. All said, our Shelby County Firefighters worked tirelessly for 14 hours; had 5 trucks on the scene along with 1 pumper and team from Arlington. Over 40 total firefighters including some that were off duty, Deputy Chiefs, Division Chiefs, and the Chief himself were ALL there and helping along with friends and neighbors! Folks, that’s what being a COMMUNITY is ALL about! I am also grateful that the injuries to 3 of our firefighters were minor and mainly caused by heat exhaustion. All are OK.

As a final thought, can we please, for the Ferrell’s sake and the sake of our community STOP all the divisive banter going back and forth on Social Media… This is NO time for this type behavior… We are NOT just a city, we are a community!…. Even though our city is physically large, we ARE ALL neighbors!

Please keep Perry and Sonek in your thoughts and prayers, Terri and I are truly honored to call them our friends! ….. One other thing, when you see one of our faithful Shelby County Firefighters, please shake their hand and thank them for their service to our community!