The postal employee who delivers our mail was at the East Washington location early Friday morning preparing for her route when she heard a loud bang, and then another one as she felt the blast under her feet. One of her fellow workers went outside to see what had happened, and in seconds returned with orders to evacuate the building. Everyone was quickly hustled off to the Milwaukee Street facility.
In minutes of the powerful explosion at Madison Gas & Electric’s downtown substation scores of the finest among our municipal employees, fire fighters and police, converged on the blaze and towering smoke to combat it and deal with myriad traffic issues. The Truax Fire Department from the airport was called to the scene to add their expertise given the type of foam needed to combat this type of a fire.
Living on the isthmus, and just a few blocks from the fire and chaos, I witnessed some of the public employees at work under sweltering conditions. Being professional and determined they kept traffic out of impacted areas so not to impede the first responders, and then later the on-going investigation.
I was proud of the efforts made by our local and state agencies to make sure that air quality was monitored and the fire retardants were pumped from sewers. Governor Tony Evers declared a state of emergency in Madison and authorized the activation of the Wisconsin National Guard to assist if needed.
In times of crisis and high drama–be it on the Madison isthmus last week or any place in our state should the need arise–all the partisan sniping at government officials, office holders, and public employees comes to an end. As it should. There is full recognition that the common good is what government is designed to protect. That was most evident from the firefighters at the substation, to the employees who made sure cooling centers were operating city wide with water bottles ready for distribution.
I was mighty proud of how Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway and Dane County Executive Joe Parisi handled the pressures of the day, along with the layers of agency interaction which is required when something of this magnitude occurs. Making it all look seamless, and more importantly, actually produce the outcome needed for the citizens who are impacted, is due to dedicated public employees who take their jobs seriously each and every day. To allow for the good ending to a day which started so horribly, was because countless public employees had trained hard and knew the role they had to perform when things turn south.
Thanks to all of them!
It was another lesson as to why government is essential in our lives, and the ones we pay to do this work are most deserving of our deep appreciation.