It's often said that the most trying times have a way of bringing out the best in people.
Such was the case during last summer's Castle Rock Fire, which many locals say brought out the best attributes of the extended Wood River Valley community.
That outstanding show of support demonstrated by locals during 20 long days in August and September as the Castle Rock Fire burned across 48,520 acres in the eastern Smoky Mountains has garnered the attention of Idaho Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter and his wife, Idaho First Lady Lori Otter.
Last Thursday, the "Castle Rock Fire community" received the First Lady's Choice award as an Idaho 2008 "Brightest Star" for its outstanding volunteer service when the wildfire swept through the mountains west of Ketchum. The eighth annual event was held at the historic Egyptian Theater in downtown Boise.
Receiving the award on behalf of the community and the 700 or more volunteers who helped out in various capacities during the fire were a number of valley residents. They included Blaine County Sheriff Walt Femling, Idaho House Minority Leader Wendy Jaquet, D-Ketchum, Blaine County Disaster Services Coordinator Chuck Turner and more than a dozen other local residents.
"It was just a nice ceremony," Turner said. "We should have had all 700 (volunteers) there."
The governor's Brightest Star awards are hosted by Serve Idaho, the governor's commission on service and volunteerism, in partnership with Boise State University's Service Learning Department and the Association of Idaho Cities.
This year, 105 individuals and groups were recognized for their outstanding volunteer efforts. The awards are given out in seven categories, including community, corporation, small business, organization, school, youth and individual.
New for 2008, First Lady Lori Otter announced the creation of two new awards--the First Lady's Choice and the Governor's Choice.
More than 600 people packed the theater during the ceremony, a news release from the Governor's office states. The award winners had their pictures taken with the Gov. Otter and the First Lady.
Ketchum resident Cindy Jesinger had nominated the Wood River Valley for the award. In her nomination form, Jesinger wrote, "The Wood River Valley provided food, shelter and safety during the Castle Rock Fire. The Castle Rock Fire community in Blaine County created a national model of volunteerism during disasters."
The news release from the governor's office notes that "residents united to support efforts to save their community. Local, state and federal elected officials rallied to support and join the efforts of local residents."
Turner said the entire valley community should be proud of the recognition. He said the award recognizes everybody that had a role in the massive volunteer effort.
Also receiving separate recognition during the ceremony were Jesinger and St. Luke's YAK. YAK works to promote the positive and healthy development of young adults through meaningful youth and adult interactions and positive alternative activities.