Bravery, Heroism Lauded

Brave. Heroes.

They are two words that we use frequently, throwing them around rather casually, as in “You’re brave to wear that outfit!” or “Thank you for bringing candy. You’re my hero!”

But true bravery and genuine heroes are much more important, signifying serious commitment to one’s calling or representing valor when placed in a dangerous situation by unexpected circumstance.

Central among the real-life brave heroes are the firefighters who were out in full force this past week in Wheeling and other communities, battling major fires despite frigid, challenging weather conditions.

With temperatures hovering near 0, members of the Wheeling Fire Department, assisted by the Martins Ferry and Cumberland Trail departments, worked for several hours Thursday to extinguish a three-alarm blaze at the Ziegenfelder Co.’s main office and manufacturing facilities in East Wheeling.

With their uniforms covered in ice, they navigated ice-coated surfaces and climbed slippery equipment to put out the fire, control its spread and protect tanks of ammonia used in the production of the company’s signature frozen treats. To the firefighters’ credit, all of the plant’s employees were evacuated without incident, no injuries occurred and other potential disasters were averted.

Emergency medical personnel and police officers also were on site to protect the public and keep onlookers out of harm’s way. Nearby buildings, including the Wheeling Clinic and West Virginia Northern Community College’s campus facilities, were closed as a precaution. Homeless people, who had sought refuge from the cold at Catholic Charities Neighborhood Center, were moved to Catholic Charities’ headquarters in Center Wheeling. Other warming shelters near the fire scene also were placed on alert.

Earlier in the week, Wheeling firefighters rescued two residents from a burning house in North Wheeling and fought that early-morning fire in equally frigid temperatures.

Fire crews from paid units and volunteer departments in other communities also have fought a number of blazes under trying circumstances in recent weeks.

Yes, these brave men and women are true heroes.

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Heather Lee O’Keefe, who grew up in Wheeling and later moved to the Sunshine State, was crowned Miss Miami last weekend.

She is now a candidate for the title of Miss Florida 2019.

O’Keefe, previously known as Heather Lee Naples, graduated from Wheeling Park High School in 2015 and graduated from West Virginia University in 2018 with a degree in journalism. After finishing her studies at WVU, she relocated to Florida to attend law school.

On a local note, O’Keefe said she is a niece of Wheeling Mayor Glenn Elliott.

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With warmer weather predicted for the next few days, Friends of Wheeling’s annual Preservation Forum has been rescheduled for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday.

The event, which is free and open to the public, will be held in the auditorium of the Ohio County Public Library at 52 16th St.

The forum was postponed last week because of bad weather.

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The West Virginia Department of Arts, Culture and History and the West Virginia Commission on the Arts are wrapping up plans for Arts Day at the Legislature.

The event will take place at the Capitol in Charleston from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Feb. 14. No doubt, participants will be trying to secure some Valentine’s Day “love” for the arts from legislators.

Artists and arts organizations from across the Mountain State will set up exhibits in the Capitol’s upper rotunda. The event is free and open to the public.

Linda Comins can be reached via email at: lcomins@theintelligencer.net

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