SITKUM — On the edge of Coos County sits the unincorporated community of Sitkum — small, remote and a place that doesn't have a quick response time if there was ever a fire.
But that will soon change.
Four years in the making, the Dora Sitkum fire garage is under construction and is expected to be finished in September, according to Tara Johnson, board member for the Dora Sitkum Fire Department.
“We’re excited because finally — after four years — we see something to show for all our work,” she said. “It’s a great collaboration between local businesses, the county and the fire department. … We’re celebrating that we’re making headway.”
The garage, which has two bays, is being paid for through a block grant from the county. Initially the grant was approved for $450,000, but Johnson said additional money was requested and now the grant is $750,000.
“We will come in close to that,” once the garage is completed, she said.
The garage is expected to have at least one fire vehicle inside, available for the fire department volunteers. Johnson explained that the need for this was paramount due to the road between Sitkum and Dora, which she described as “treacherous on a good day.”
“There are spots where it’s one lane,” she said. “There’s a lot of trucks going through the one lane part and someone has to back up. … Overall, the idea is to have a vehicle stationed on the other side of the gorge (in Sitkum) to allow mobility and a quicker response time.”
Having a fire garage in the area's boundaries, Johnson said, will help lower insurance rates for residents as well.
“… The rating is provided based on response time and miles from a station,” she said. “… There are times when the people in Sitkum have to go to the garage in Dora to get the fire response vehicle and drive back. That makes for a 30-minute response time.”
Not only will that be a relief for Sitkum residents, but Johnson said the “treacherous” road between the two small towns is often blocked with rock slides throughout the year, making a bad situation worse.
“At our house in Dora, we’ve had rocks falling lately,” Johnson said. “If there are big rocks in the gorge, and rocks fall there, you could think you’re getting out but can’t because there is a rock that needs a tractor to move. So then you have a fire on the other side of the rockslide and you can’t get to it, so they (would) have to fight it with whatever they have to fight it with.”
The new fire garage is being constructed on Sitkum Lane.