By Jessica Bruha
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — After months of anticipation, Norman firefighters responded to their first call out of the city’s newest station on Sunday afternoon, putting out a small grass fire in east Norman.
In between responding to calls, Fire Capt. Lenny Mulder and three other firefighters unpacked boxes, began setting up the day room and cooked their first meal in Station 9 on the first official day of being open.
All of the firefighters working the first shift Sunday were getting used to how large the new station was. It is now Norman’s largest fire station and features 15,149 square feet.
“You could get lost in here,” Mulder said, commenting on the size of the facility.
Although it may be large, operation costs will be similar to that of a smaller station because of it’s eco-friendly design. Like Station 8, the fire department is aiming for the facility to be LEED certified (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design).
As of Sunday evening, the crew had already responded to three calls, including the grass fire which was their first call around noon. Station 9 is relieving runs from stations 1 and 3, and covers much of eastern Norman.
Stations 1 and 3 were averaging about three to four calls per night with about an hour and a half between each of those calls which made sleep pretty much non-existent, Mulder said. With Station 9 taking over some of those calls, he said hopefully it will give some of the other guys a little more sleep during their 24-hour shift.
Mulder and the other firefighters were working out of other stations and alternating responding to calls, but now they have a place to call their own.
“This is our home. We were just guests at the other stations,” said firefighter Robert Carrick. “I’m glad it’s finally open, that station (3) was too small for all of us.”
Crews at the new station respond to calls within the boundaries of Indian Hills Road, down to an area between Lindsey Street and Imhoff Road, and then it stretches from in between 12th and 24th Avenues to in between 60th and 84th Avenues.
The area of coverage includes four schools and the Norman Veterans Center, which Mulder said they typically receive a lot of calls from.
The location of the station will help with response time in order for fire fighters to be able to respond to any call within five minutes. As first responders, Mulder said response time is a crucial factor because if someone is in full cardiac arrest, they only have six minutes so they need to be on the scene before those six minutes are up.
As the city continues to grow to the east, the station will at some point become more centrally located in the city. There are currently two views from the station, one that overlooks bustling Norman city life and one that overlooks more of a rural area.
Mulder said it’s almost the best of both worlds with a town and country aspect right now, but he expects more residential areas to be changing that soon. Until then, he’s going to continue enjoying the view.
Station 9 also houses a new fire engine and brush unit. Eventually they will be looking at getting a tanker that will be able to carry about 3,000 gallons of water which will help when responding to areas where there is not a fire hydrant for crews to hook up to, Mulder said.
“A tanker will help everyone out east,” he said, adding that instead of just trying to keep a house fire from spreading, they will be able to extinguish it a lot faster.
It will also make it to where they won’t have to rely on mutual aide as much because as it is, if there is a fire out east they have to call on help from Slaughterville and Little Axe, he said.
Mulder said he expects more wildland calls, or grass fires, to begin after the first big freeze up until April.
Station 9 also features a larger training area, tornado shelters within private bathrooms for the firefighters, a workout room and two offices where police on the east side of Norman can fill out reports.
The project was about $3,795,000 and is funded by the Public Safety Sales Tax passed by Norman voters in May 2008. The PSST also funded Fire Station 8, which Station 9 was modeled after.