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County Builds Emergency Road

PHILOMATH, Ore. – Benton County is building an emergency road between Pioneer Village and Evergreen Road, two Philomath communities that only have one route out.

Pioneer Village is a Fire Wise community; members are working together to make their neighborhood more fire safe.

“This community is really in tune with individual needs and community needs and bigger needs,” said Chief Tom Phelps with Philomath Fire and Rescue.

Phelps says the 53-home community has been working with the Department of Forestry to create an action plan to not only stay safe, but also to try to prevent fires from spreading. The community has already worked on projects to clear tree limbs away from homes, remove leaves from gutters, and to cut long grasses close to structures. After Pioneer Village was recognized as a Fire Wise community, it opened the door for not only grants, but for other agencies to help them take action regarding certain problems.

“One of the challenges was that they only had one way in and one way out,” he said. “If we have something that goes on up here, we’re going to bring a lot of big rigs up that road.”

Phelps says the issue is much larger than just about a potential traffic jam.

“If something happens on the lower part of this neighborhood and cuts off that road, then the people who live up here don’t have a way out.”

With the help of Philomath Fire and Rescue, Benton County is partnering with Starker Forests and the Homeowner’s Association to build the new evacuation route. The road will connect Pioneer Village to Evergreen Road.

“This provides a second way out; it’s an evacuation route. It could be a second way in for us,” Phelps said.

The road will go through Benton County public land, and through private land belonging to Starker Forests. The entrance points on the road will be blocked by a gate.

“So how are we going to provide that emergency access through that gate without opening Starker’s entire road system?” asked Phelps.

Benton County says the road project should be completed by the end of October, but Phelps says the partnership is still trying to figure out who will be able to open the locked gate. Phelps says the gate will remain shut unless there is an emergency. Drivers will not be able to take their cars on the road unless it is a time of crisis, but the public is able to get free recreation passes to hike along the trails from Starker Forests by calling (541) 929-2477.

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