LOWELL, Ore. — A Lowell man, who was trying to honor his son in a Native American mourning ceremony, says firefighters ended it before he could finish, but firefighters say they were just doing their job.
It’s been just over a year since Jack Devereaux lost his son Garrett and when the anniversary of his death rolled around, Devereaux felt it was finally time to give him a proper goodbye. Devereaux says he’s spent the last year, keeping his family afloat and in the process, he reconnected with his Native American heritage. So, he really wanted to hold a special burning ceremony in Garrett’s honor.
Devereaux says Sunday seemed like the perfect opportunity, “The sun came out and I thought, ‘Wow, this would be a really great time.’” But, he says things didn’t turn out quite as he had hoped, since the Lowell Fire Department barged in and put a stop to it.
“I can’t explain it other than February 2nd, a year ago, I got a phone call and it was the worst phone call I ever got and I just feel like on Sunday I relived it,” says Devereaux.
But while Lowell Fire Department Chief Keith Hoehn says he understands Devereaux wanting to honor his son, they were never notified and there were violations they couldn’t ignore including a very large fire on commercial property, at night, with prohibited burning materials.
Hoehn says, “We got the initial call at 7:53 in the evening of a possible structure fire…If we would have had any kind of evidence that this was a true ceremonial process, we would’ve done what we could’ve at the time to finish the ceremony.”
Devereaux says, “The reason I’m telling this story is because I want people to be educated, but most of all I want people to respect each other for who they are and what they are.”
The agency insists they weren’t discriminating against Devereaux saying they would’ve handled the situation the same with anyone, because it’s their job to put safety first.
And they advise Devereaux and others to contact local fire agencies before performing such ceremonies or any open burning to prevent situations like this.