Pretty places, ugly roads

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If your house is burning or your spouse is having a heart attack, you don't want the fire truck or the ambulance to get stuck on the way to your rescue.

Trouble is, some of the prettier homes and homesites in Baker County are along roads that are, if you're driving a big, heavy rig, kind of ugly.

This situation bothers Mark Bennett, the county's planning director. The county's 13 rural fire district chiefs also are worried that their rigs, when they're needed most, won't be able to negotiate certain stretches of steep, narrow county roads or private driveways.

Their concern is legitimate.

However, we hope county officials proceed with caution as they consider ways to deal with the potential danger posed by roads that can't accommodate emergency vehicles or at least not easily.

The county's planning commission, for instance, has required some homeowners to improve part of a county road to ensure fire trucks and ambulances can get to the property. But it's not certain that the county has the legal authority to mandate such work on roads which are the county's responsibility.

Yet, the county's road department can't afford to fix every section of road that needs work.

We like the county's initial tactic: Have those 13 rural fire district chiefs make a list of the roads and driveways that look like they could stop an emergency rig. Then the county, or the fire districts themselves, should send their findings to people who live in those places.

That way everyone involved understands the possible problems.

We suspect many people who live in the woods or the sagelands already realize that, if disaster hits, help probably won't arrive as soon as they'd prefer.

Those homeowners have decided, in spite of the risks, to live where they want to live.

Ultimately, it should also be their decision whether to plow some of their money into a road to possibly reduce those risks.

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The Baker City Herald
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Friday July 29, 2016

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