Planned Ahmeek fire/rescue facility will be county-owned

Graham Jaehnig/Daily Mining Gazette Equipment for the Ahmeek Village Fire Department and Keweenaw County Sheriff Off-Road Rescue, currently are housed in two separate facilities blocks apart.

AHMEEK — The facility proposed to the Keweenaw County Board last Wednesday by the Ahmeek Fire Department is for a storage building in which to house all of the equipment for the Keweenaw County Off-Road Rescue at one location.

The proposal as written calls for a four-bay, heated, single-story pole barn, 62 feet wide by 70 feet long, with large, independently operated doors. Additionally, exterior doors would be installed for keyed access. If possible, as well, the garage would be equipped with a heated concrete floor to enable the vehicles to be thawed out and hoses to be dried.

Ahmeek Village, the plan states, will donate the land for the new construction, and continue to cover the expense of utilities and maintenance of the building, with the move of the department’s fire truck to that same location.

The Keweenaw County Off-Road Rescue is completely funded through the county and Sheriff’s Department, the plan states The Fire Department will raise funds through a gifting campaign, approaching philanthropists, foundations and user groups.

“We will also continue to seek grant funds that meet the criteria for a brick-and-mortar structure,” the proposal states.

“What we’re talking about is building a barn that will be used for storage of off-road rescue equipment,” said Sheriff Bill Luokkanen. “This is all about storage of county property. It would be a county-owned building at the end of the day. It wouldn’t be Ahmeek’s.”

Several years ago, the county recognized a need for an off-road rescue unit, Luokkanen said, and the various fire departments in the county were approached and asked if anyone would be interested in becoming partners.

Ahmeek, he said, was the only department to show interest and became part of the Keweenaw County Sheriff’s Office Off-Road Rescue.

“What happens is the Sheriff’s Office provides the equipment, with the exception of one piece, and the training,” Luokkanen said, “and the Ahmeek village Fire Department provides the manpower.”

Updated communication, including internet access, is also requested for future classes such as ORV and snowmobile safety, CPR and AED (automated external defibrillator) training and Michigan Firefighter Training Council-approved courses, the proposal states.

“When we’re talking about the way things are right now,” Luokkanen said, “three different places where they have stuff stored right now, is a building that’s owned by the village, and also at their fire hall, where there is a heated garage, and outside, where they store their equipment.”