Firefighter union says new OKC station plan could endanger downtown
Controversy heats up over a new Oklahoma City fire station.
Right now, downtown Oklahoma City is booming. Everywhere you look you find new construction and new people.
"I think the citizens should be concerned about it," said Oklahoma City Fire Fighter's Association union president Phil Sipe.
He says with the growth comes concerns about safety. Sipe is sounding the alarm because one of the two engines is moving out of the main downtown station.
"As the population density increases downtown you're gonna need more and more resources in the downtown area to deal with he people that are here," he said.
The move is the result of a recommendation from a study done seven years ago. It happened before MAPS 3 passed and it underestimated the growth we've seen in recent years.
"To us it does not solve the problem, it just spreads our resources even thinner," Sipe said.
But Oklahoma City Fire Chief Keith Bryant says the engine's destination, a new station planned for SW 119th and Rockwell, is desperately needed.
"With the resources we have available right now and the resources we have to work with...it's the right move right now," he said.
Downtown has six stations that could help in an emergency, which is more than any part of the city. Surprisingly, calls to those stations have actually decreased in the past three years.Downtown area station responses:
2010 = 20,215 total responses2011 = 21,008 total responses2012 = 18,932 total responses2013 = 13,927 total responses (to date)
But with the newly increased response times for EMSA, Sipe thinks now firefighters will be answering more calls than ever. Begging the question, what can we do?
"There's a simple answer to that question and it is you need to hire more firefighters," he said. He proposes the new station be staffed by new hires and estimates the 15 firefighters would cost the city around $1 million.
He's asked city council to drop the proposal that passed in 2006 and follow his before the new station opens early next year.
"Unless directed otherwise by the policy-makers, that (new station) will continue to be the plan (as is)," Bryant said.
It's an idea fueling a fire fight, between the people who risk their lives to protect us from the flames.