View Full Version : OKC Offers to take over fire service for metro cities

04-20-2005, 03:06 AM
City offers to take over Bethany firefighting

By Beth Gollob and Steve Lackmeyer
The Oklahoman

Oklahoma City officials are offering to take over fire protection services in at least three metro area cities, but only officials in Bethany are considering the proposal, The Oklahoman has learned.

Earlier this year, Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett and City Manager Jim Couch met with Bethany Mayor J.D. Johnston and City Manager Dan Galloway to discuss the offer, Johnston said.

Cornett also approached officials in Warr Acres and The Village about providing fire protection in those cities, but the proposals were rejected, officials in those cities said.

Warr Acres has a fire budget of nearly $1.14 million, with 16 fire employees. The Village Fire Department has 18 employees, with a budget of more than $1.4 million.

Consolidation of fire protection is one of several proposals being mulled over by a revenue task force launched earlier this year by Cornett.

"Municipalities in general are having a tough time," Cornett said. "We all need to be trying to be operating as efficiently as possible."

Oklahoma City has 35 fire stations spread across 625 square miles with several that overlap suburbs including The Village, Bethany and Warr Acres, City Manager Jim Couch said.

Historically, the towns have had mutual aid agreements, with 20 now in place. The agreements call for Oklahoma City to help respond on major incidents in suburbs, and vice versa.

The Oklahoma City Fire Department employs 955 people, with a $97.1 million operating and capital projects budget.

Under a verbal proposal with Oklahoma City, Bethany could save up to $1 million a year on fire service by allowing Oklahoma City to close Bethany's station, absorb its manpower, and provide fire service, Johnston said. Other plans that would save less money include providing support and adding an Oklahoma City fire truck to the Bethany station.

The proposal also would allow any firefighters reassigned to Oklahoma City's fire department to retain their current salaries, ranks and benefits. Bethany's fire chief and deputy chief would not retain their ranks, however, Johnston said.

"The only one (proposal) that would make sense, if it would make sense at all ... would be where they would take all of our firefighters and they (firefighters) would keep all of their pay," Johnston said.

Bethany has a current fiscal year budget of roughly $2.2 million and employs 23 firefighters, a fire chief and a deputy chief.

Bethany officials would have to consider a long-term program to ensure any savings offered would remain in place for the long haul, especially since city contracts must be renewed annually, Johnston said.

"We're just listening," Johnston said. "There'd have to be substantial savings for us to really consider this. This is a very big step."

When asked for a written copy of what has been proposed, Johnston said nothing has been proposed in writing. Bethany spokeswoman Kristin Sanders said no such document has been received by Bethany officials.

Galloway will consider the proposal before presenting it to council members. A public hearing would be held later, if council members decide they like the idea, Johnston said.

In the meantime, fire officials are wondering what will happen to the Bethany Fire Department, Fire Chief Eddie Hogan said.

Bethany firefighters are concerned about the possibility of being taken over, and feel like "the mom-and-pop store competing against Sam Walton's Wal-Mart," Hogan said, adding that rumors have caused department morale to drop.

"I feel on one hand this is kind of good, because it makes us look at ourselves to see if there's something we could do to improve, but if they're going to give up on us, I hope they'd let us know," Hogan said.

Cornett said Oklahoma City has no intention of taking over surrounding communities, and does not foresee any similar discussion involving policing.

"Policing is far less likely because there are different traffic laws -- the priorities are different," Cornett said. "Oklahoma City has no desire in annexing any of these communities."

Cornett said he knows the offer is a tough decision for other town officials.

"One of my hopes is that the city leaders in Bethany get some credit for even being willing to think of this -- they're the ones having to look outside the box," Cornett said.

04-20-2005, 05:32 AM
I have been wanting a plan like this for years. In fact, I think ALL the metro areas except for ooutlining area's like Guthrie, Purcell, El Reno and Shawnee should be included. Same for police.

04-20-2005, 08:55 AM
I agree, although living in Bethany and running for Bethany Council, I know how Bethany citizens are. They addressed this issue last night in the city council meeting. They said they wouldnt be doing their job if they didnt listen to proposal and consider although I know they were saying that to cover themselves and will ultimately end up not doing it because of the "old guard" community that is actually killing the city financially.

04-22-2005, 12:10 AM
Personally, I think it woiuld be a smart move for the smaller inner city burbs to take the mayor oup on this proposal. The Village has been hurting ever since Wal-Mart closed. Why would they want to continue operating a fire department when OKC has a fire station close by at 122nd and May Ave? Seems pointless to me.

At times, I've also questioned the need for EMSA or medical units on our fire department. Seems like there's overlap between the two. Either let EMSA handle medical emergencies, or let the fire department handle it, but it's pointless to have both trucks out for a medical emergency.

04-23-2005, 12:45 PM
"EMSA works with the fire department to provide the best possible pre-hospital care to Tulsa area citizens. Fire department paramedics attend the EMSA orientation academy and ride with our medics to complete the orientation process. The fire departments act as first responders for EMSA in life-threatening emergencies."

"EMSA is required to respond to life-threatening emergencies within 8 minutes and 59 seconds for all calls in Tulsa and the Western Division, and 11 minutes and 59 seconds in Bixby, Jenks and Sand Springs. EMSA’s average response time is actually 5 minutes and 49 seconds."

Source EMSAOnline

In most cases the fire department can be on scene within 3-5 minutes. You certainly know as a soon to be physician that time is a factor in saving lives or preventing further injury.

I rode with a police officer of one of the suburbs here in the city, They had an emergency medical call go out over the radio. He responded as a well as the fire department to the call. By the time EMSA arrived all they had to do is get a brief from the firefighters and put the paitent in the ambulance.

Needless to say a stroke paitent was on his way to the hospital within 7 minutes of the 911 call. Not to mention there are some situations to where special tools are needed that are only found on a fire truck not on an ambulance.

04-24-2005, 09:36 PM
Oh so now we want to make our city pay for the sprawl we have? I must disagree unless someone can explain this better.

04-25-2005, 11:21 AM
What does sprawl have to do with this discussion????

Anyways, I see your point oklacity75. Knowing the quicker response time for the FD, I wonder if the OKCFD could run EMSA any more efficiently. I've always wondered how it would work if the fire dept. just took over from EMSA, by adding more rescue units.

I guess in the current set up where most fire depts. only have 1 or 2 rescue units, having two groups respond to the emergency is a good thing....the fire dept. takes care of immediate lifesaving strategies, while EMSA hauls the person off the hospital to allow the OKCFD the opportunity to go to the next call once the emergency is under control.