After reading Rinny Tweedy's letter pertaining to an apparent lack of compassion regarding the downtown fire, I felt a response was definitely in order.
First, I want to commend the fire and police departments for their outstanding efforts. They did a great job in containing and extinguishing the fire and in keeping residents and onlookers safe during the incident. Once the fire was safely out, firefighters and numerous volunteer city staff members spent several days helping tenants remove their possessions from the burned building. The fire department continued to keep watch on the building to make sure there was not a flare-up. The city helped Mr. Huntington secure the building with fencing and the police department maintained a 24-hour vigil the next night to protect the property.
I can only imagine what Mr. Huntington and the tenants were feeling, having just lost their businesses and property. I talked to numerous tenants, many who I know personally, and offered my condolences and any assistance we might provide. I also had similar conversations with Mr. Huntington. There were, in fact, a number of things we were able to do to assist them. Further, we did allow time for all of the tenants to sort through the rubble and salvage anything they could once the building was determined safe for entry. In order to open the streets and sidewalks, it was necessary to either make the building structurally safe and secure or demolish it. We allowed Mr. Huntington time to bring in structural engineers to examine the building and make that determination. I also met with him and, in the event he would have needed more time to make that decision, would certainly have granted it.
If the comments of Rinny Tweedy are based on the Aug. 10 article in the Juneau Empire, it's somewhat understandable how one could possibly draw the conclusion that compassion was not being shown for the building owner and tenants. In a situation like this, there are specific legal requirements. There are also many things occurring that are not reported in the newspaper. In this case, I can assure you there was a great deal of personal concern, compassion, care, outreach, and offers of assistance by myself and the city to everyone affected by this unfortunate event. Those efforts are ongoing as we continue to work closely and cooperatively with everyone involved.