As the fires raged across Donegal and the emergency services and teams of volunteers put in twenty-four hour days to deal with them, one over-riding reflection emerged through the thick plumes of smoke - the spirit of the people of this county can never be quenched.
While we continue to suffer the consequences of the recession and the impact that invariably has through jobs losses and monetary struggles, we nevertheless saw over the past few days what much of our population is made of. In the most selfless acts imaginable, the people, many of them representing the often much maligned younger generation, sprang to the aid of householders, farmers, and entire communities placed under the gravest of threats in the path of the blazing infernos that engulfed the county.
Not for these people a watching role of observers standing idly by on the fringes and expressing sympathy to the affected - instead they rolled up sleeves and got to work to help in the fight against the flames. This was no half-hour effort either - in countless cases, the volunteers toiled through from dawn to dusk and long beyond, in many instances travelling miles to come to the rescue of homes and townlands.
And not just homes and townlands. The remarkable aspect of the firestorm was that there were no fatalities despite the extent of it. For that we must owe a stirring depth of gratitude to the emergency services - fire crews spent sleepless days and nights battling blazes - and those volunteers from local communities who joined in such large numbers to help contain the outbreaks.
When the word went out - and we should not underestimate the role played by the social networking sites including, and specifically, Facebook, in alerting and mobilising so many young people - the volunteers were not found wanting.
There have been endless soundings of heartfelt gratitude and praise to those involved - one caller to the offices of the ‘Donegal Democrat’ suggesting that special medals should be issued to honour those who put their own safety at risk on behalf of others.
Given that the teams of volunteers extend to so many and could not conceivably be individually identified for such a purpose, that’s a proposal that might not be feasible.
But when next we are told that today’s generation is full of selfish and self-serving people with no regard for anyone else, we should reflect on the efforts of the past few days and remember the spirited response that was fired up on the back of one of the worst environmental disasters this county has experienced in living memory. Main photo by Conor McGonagle