MP Fire Department

Assistant Fire Chief Willy Burris demonstrates a “self-contained breathing apparatus” used by Myrtle Point firefighters. The equipment shows evidence of hard use, and it is increasingly unreliable.

A breath of relief

Grant helps keep firefighters safe


 MYRTLE POINT – Fighting fires is dangerous twice.

Obviously, plunging into a burning building is risky. But as it turns out, the danger doesn’t stop when firefighters return to the station.


s are at super high risk for cancer,” said Willy Burris, Myrtle Point’s assistant fire chief.

Burris, Chief Daniel Gardner and the volunteers on Myrtle Point’s fire crew can breathe a little easier – literally – with help from a $6,000 grant from the Coquille Tribal Community Fund.  The grant will help replace the department’s aging protective gear.

A “self-contained breathing apparatus” – a backpack-mounted air tank and mask – protects a firefighter’s life on the job, while reducing long-term effects of toxic smoke. But Myrtle Point’s battered equipment no longer inspires confidence.

“It’s in the back of your mind: I hope this thing doesn’t fail,” Burris said.

The department’s 15-year-old air tanks are hitting their legal expiration dates, and the accompanying gear is increasingly temperamental. A tiny malfunction can make exhaling difficult, and replacement parts are hard to find. Some volunteers are reluctant to wear the gear, despite its life-saving importance.

“Any time you’re breathing smoke, you need to wear your mask,” Burris said.

In a study completed in 2015, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health found increased incidence of cancer diagnoses and cancer deaths among firefighters.  Digestive, oral, respiratory and urinary cancers were the most common. Firefighters also were susceptible to malignant mesothelioma, a rare cancer caused by asbestos exposure.

Burris notes that today’s buildings are full of synthetic materials that produce toxic substances when burned, including cyanide. Fire departments nationwide have been advised to clean their turnout gear after each fire to remove hazardous residue.

Myrtle Point’s new breathing apparatus will feature straps that can be removed easily for laundering. It also features a more comfortable design than the old gear. Burris said the department studied what’s on the market and chose a relatively basic model rather than a more deluxe setup.

“There’s less stuff to go wrong,” he explained.

Myrtle Point’s $6,000 public safety grant is one of six awarded by the Coquille Tribal Community Fund this year. Public safety accounts for $37,000 of the tribe’s more than $290,000 in 2018 grants.

Tribal member Jackie Chambers, who coordinates the Community Fund, said the Coquille Tribe is pleased to be able to help Myrtle Point’s volunteer heroes.

“Not only will this new gear help them provide services to the local community, but in neighboring communities as well,” she said. “We thank the Myrtle Point Fire Department for over 100 years of service.”


Coquille Tribal Community Fund

2018 Public Safety Grants

Coos Bay Fire Department $5,000
Myrtle Point Fire Department $6,000
Kids’ HOPE Center $15,000
Department of Human Services Child Welfare $1,500
Charleston Fishing Families $7,500
Charleston Community Enhancement Corp. $2,000

Egyptian Theatre

Kara Long, the Egyptian Theatre’s executive director, displays the frayed rope that sent a vintage backdrop plummeting to the stage.

Vintage theater copes with ropes

Tribe’s grant will help replace aged rigging

COOS BAY – The terrace fell on a Wednesday in August.

Paul Quarino knows it was a Wednesday, because the Egyptian Theatre had been open for Farmers Market. A visiting couple asked to see the Wurlitzer organ, and Quarino, the theater’s organist, took the pair backstage for a personal tour.

Eager to display the Egyptian’s historic charms, he began lowering part of a hand-painted backdrop – one depicting a Mediterranean terrace and forest scene. That was when a decades-old hemp rope snapped.

Quarino remembers thinking, “That thing is coming down, and I don’t have control of it.”

Quarino insists the next few moments were not dramatic, though they sound dramatic enough. When the rope gave way, so did a wooden support known as a batten. The heavy canvas mural, now hanging by a single rope, “slithered” to the floor.

No one was hurt, but the ancient hemp could be trusted no longer. The Egyptian’s famed backdrops would be out of commission until further notice.

A year and a half later, Quarino and other members of the Egyptian’s board are looking forward to putting those historic scenes in the public eye once again. A $5,000 grant from the Coquille Tribal Community Fund provides key funding for a project to rejuvenate the theater’s overhead rigging.

“The Egyptian Theatre Preservation Association is keeping a piece of history alive, and we are thrilled to help with that,” said Tribal member Jackie Chambers, who coordinates the Tribal Fund. “I remember going to the theater as a little kid. I was always in awe. When I take my  children there, they have that same look on their faces that I did when I was their age.”



Most of the Egyptian’s backdrops date to 1925, when they were painted in Portland and shipped to what was then Marshfield. Along with the terrace scene, they show a Nile River scene, a temple and a forest. A fifth backdrop, depicting Mount Hood, is newer.

Kara Long, the theater’s executive director, calls the canvases iconic.

No one was hurt when a broken rope released this canvas backdrop. Long expects volunteers will need about three months to replace the theater’s elderly rigging.

“Nobody in the world has these backdrops,” she said. “Nobody. They’re in original shape, too. They’re gorgeous.”

Restoring the backdrops to working order means replacing the old hemp ropes with durable nylon. Safety-rated materials will replace some dubious hardware. Steel cables of unknown vintage will make their exit as well.

The labor will be donated. An Egyptian board member, formally trained in technical theater, will lead a gang of volunteers. Long estimates the job will take three months.

The Tribe is awarding a total of 57 grants for 2018 in six categories: arts and culture, education, environment, historic preservation, health, and public safety. This year’s $291,000 in grants raises the fund’s total to more than $6.1 million since 2001, all supported by revenue from The Mill Casino.

Once the backdrops are in place, Long and her board have a busy agenda of additional improvements.  They plan to level the sagging stage and rewire the sound system. They also want to relocate the mechanical controls to an overhead platform, freeing the stage’s “wings” for performers to come and go safely.

Fundraising for restoration is ongoing.

Want to help?

Coos Bay’s Egyptian Theater Preservation Association is always looking for grants, private donations and volunteers. Contact Executive Director Kara Long at [email protected].

More about the Community Fund


Coquille Tribal Community Fund 

2018 Historic Preservation Grants

Egyptian Theatre Preservation Association  $5,000
Bandon Historical Society Museum  $2,250
Curry Historical Society  $3,000
Coquille Tribal Community Fund 

2018 Education Grants

Coos County Historical Society $5,000
Coos County S.T.E.P. Commission $10,000
Madison Elementary School $5,828
SWOCC/TS/UB $5,000
Boys & Girls Club of Southwestern Oregon $2,500
South Coast Family Harbor $20,000
S.A.F.E. Haven Recovery $6,000
Coos Bay Area Zonta Service Foundation $5,000
North Bend School Foundation $5,000
Oregon Children’s Foundation dba SMART $5,000
Women’s Safety and Resource Center $5,000
Powers Friends of the Library Foundation $3,000
Oregon Museum of Science and Industry $2,500
Bandon School District $2,000
Friends Inspiring Reading Success Together $2,000
Youth Movement $2,000


Fresh Alliance

Volunteer driver Steve Taylor collects donated groceries from the North Bend Safeway. A grant from the Coquille Tribal Community fund will let the Fresh Alliance program expand to include local McKay’s Markets.

Tribal grant expands fresh food donations

When you’re short of cash and the cupboard is bare, a box of canned goods or a sack of pinto beans is a godsend. But food bank fare can be a monotonous diet.

 “Even if you’re living in poverty, you don’t want to eat the same thing every day,” said Sara Stephens, development director for Oregon Coast Community Action.

 The solution is Fresh Alliance, a creative project backed this year by a Coquille Tribal Community Fund grant.

Operating as part of ORCCA’s Food Share program, Fresh Alliance collects expired baked goods, produce and other foods from markets each day. Those foods – past their sell-by dates but still safe and tasty – go to local food banks, providing nutrition and variety to hungry families.

Thanks to Fresh Alliance, a family’s food box might contain fresh strawberries, salad greens, pastries – even a T-bone steak or a salmon filet.

“The ability to provide that is amazing,” said Laura Hunter, who directs South Coast Food Share.

South Coast grocers donate abundantly to Fresh Alliance – more than 400,000 pounds of food in 2017 alone. The numbers could be even higher, but ORCCA’s capacity to process donations has limited the number of stores taking part.

This year, a $20,000 grant from the Coquille Tribal Community fund will let Fresh Alliance add all seven local McKay’s Markets to its donor list.

McKay’s will join Fresh Alliance’s existing list of donor stores, which already encompasses Fred Meyer, Safeway, Walmart, Ray’s Food Place and Cash & Carry. The seven additional stores will let ORCCA supply many additional tons of fresh groceries to local food banks.

“We are delighted to support the Fresh Alliance expansion,” said Jackie Chambers, who coordinates the Tribal Fund. “Our local supermarkets have been generous partners in meeting loc

Once collected by volunteer driver Steve Taylor, the fresh food will be distributed promptly to local food banks.

al needs. This grant lets Food Share expand that collaboration and reduce food waste in our area.”

Along with nutrition, Fresh Alliance’s diverse offerings deliver a rare sense of luxury to food bank clients.

“I think many times we make assumptions about what

people in poverty should be eating,” Stevens explained. “Who really wants to eat dried beans and stuff in a can all the time?”

She recalled a young mother in Coquille who had no cake for her 4-year-old daughter’s birthday. Her food bank had one on hand – already lavishly decorated in a girlish theme.

“She just had tears in her eyes because they were going to be able to have that cake for her kiddo,” Stevens said.

Fresh Alliance is one of 57 organizations sharing more than $290,000 in Coquille Tribal Community Fund grants this year. Twenty-three of those programs, including Food Share, fall into the fund’s Health category, accounting for more than $130,000 of the total.

The Tribal Fund has distributed more than $6.1 million since 2001. More about the Community Fund




Coquille Tribal Community Fund 

2018 Health Grantees

Oregon Coast Community Action (Food Share) $20,000
Southern Coos Health Foundation $5,000
The Salvation Army of Coos Bay $2,000
Oregon Lions Sight & Hearing Foundation $6,000
Coos Bay Area Habitat For Humanity $5,000
Drug Disposal Coalition $3,000
Knights of Columbus Council 1261 $2,000
Coos Elderly Services Inc. $10,000
Oregon Coast Community Action (CASA) $10,000
Powers School District $10,000
Kairos $7,500
Bay Area Senior Activity Center $6,000
Brookings Harbor Community Helpers Food Bank $5,000
Coos Food Cupboard $5,000
Harmony United Methodist Church $5,000
North Bend Senior Center $5,000
South Coast Hospice & Palliative Care Services Inc. $5,000
United Way of Southwestern Oregon $5,000
The Gold Beach Senior Center $4,000
Coos County Friends of Public Health $3,500
Coos Bay Seventh Day Adventist Food Pantry $3,000
The Arc Jackson County $2,000
Marshfield Key Club $1,386

Transit Grant Will Expand Local Bus Service

Local bus service in Coos County will be faster and more convenient thanks to a federal grant obtained by the Coquille Indian Tribe and Coos County Area Transit.

By improving bus access to education services, health care, public agencies and job sites, the project is expected to double the ridership on CCAT, from the current 25,000 rides per year to 50,000.  Riders will reach their destinations in half the time they spend now.

“We are thrilled to have a part in bringing better public transit to Coos County,” said Tribal Chairperson Brenda Meade.  “CCAT is an absolute lifeline for so many people in our community.”

The $200,000 grant comes from the government’s Tribal Transit Program, but Meade emphasized that CCAT’s improved service will benefit the whole community.

“The Coquille Tribe lives by the potlatch tradition of sharing resources with those around us, and this project fits that philosophy perfectly,” she said. “It benefits our Tribal members, and it benefits our neighbors throughout the community.”

The grant lets CCAT reorganize its two Connector Routes by providing more frequent service and more convenient transfers from one bus to another. That’s made possible by the addition of an Intercity Route linking the Connector Routes.

Some details:

  • The existing West Connector Route travels from Charleston to Coos Bay, then to Pony Village Mall and the Department of Human Services office on Newmark Avenue.
  • The existing East Connector goes from Eastside to Pony Village.
  • The two routes currently meet at Pony Village and at Walmart. This duplication of stops lengthens both routes. As a result, the wait between buses at each stop is about an hour and 45 minutes.
  • The new Intercity Route will eliminate the duplication by providing a link between the two Connector Routes. It will include stops at Walmart, North Bend Medical Center, Bay Area Hospital, Pony Village, the Coos County Annex and Southwestern Oregon Community College
  • With the Connector Routes no longer duplicating stops, buses will be able to serve each stop every 55 minutes. That’s twice as frequent as the current schedule.
  • The increased service will add convenience not only for local riders, but also for passengers transferring from buses serving Myrtle Point, Coquille, Bandon and Brookings.

The starting date for the expanded service has not yet been determined.

All Things Salmon

For sustenance, industry or sport, salmon have had a profound influence on people and cultures. The impact of this powerful migratory fish can be seen in art works from prehistoric stone carvings through contemporary glass.

In a nationwide competition/exhibition, the Coos Art Museum focuses on the theme of salmon in contemporary art. This exhibition is funded in part by a grant from the Coquille Tribal Community Fund.

Newspaper article

More about the museum