The Norman Transcript

Government

April 4, 2014

Fire chief says Norman will need more fire stations to quickly help all service areas

NORMAN — Northeast Norman is prime property for those seeking the country lifestyle. Ten-acre lots guarantee that residents who live in some of Norman’s furthest reaches can enjoy privacy and nature. What is lacking is a fire station.

Often, Oklahoma City firefighters are first on the scene in northeast Norman. The largest barriers to quick response are Lake Thunderbird and money.

It costs about $1.5 million annually to operate a fire station. That includes 15 firefighters who rotate through the five-man duty, fuel for vehicles and maintenance expenses. That does not include the cost of acquiring land and building a fire station. The goal is to have a five-mile service area to allow for quick response, but that’s currently not possible in northeast Norman.

“As we look into the future, Norman’s going to have to have more fire stations,” Fire Chief James Fullingim told the Public Safety Sales Tax Oversight Committee on Thursday.

When and where to add fire stations is a policy-maker decision, Fullingim said. While he can report the number of calls to elected city officials — Norman City Council members — he does not make those decisions.

Fullingim said rural northeast Norman is currently underserved and that problem is unlikely to be resolved in the near future.

“The population base up there is much smaller than it is in some other places,” he said. “If it was my house, I would hate to be 25 miles away from the nearest fire station.”

Mutual aid for the area comes from several departments when fires hit northeast Norman, including Little Axe, Oklahoma City, Slaughterville and Noble.

“Rarely do you have a fire in east Norman that you won’t have more than one department in each area,” Fullingim said, “but Norman is the primary responder in that area. If you live in Norman and you call 911, Norman will send something.”

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