Jennifer Pierce, News 9

NICHOLS HILLS, Oklahoma -- The Nichols Hills Fire Department is slowly putting the loss of their leader behind them. The department promoted Terry Hamilton, the deputy fire chief, to fill the vacancy.

Hamilton said the department waited more than a week to fill the vacancy left by Chief Keith Bryan's death out of respect. Emotionally, it's been a difficult transition.

"I'm excited to have the position," Hamilton said. "This is a good department with good people. Under the circumstances, it's very difficult."

Hamilton and Bryan were not only colleagues, but longtime friends. They started at the department only months apart.

"He started in August of 1980 and I started in May of 1981, so he was just ahead of me, but we grew up in the fire service together."

Moving forward from Chief Bryan's death has been difficult. The flag still waves at half staff.

The job alone has been the department's therapy.

"It helps to stay busy," Hamilton said. "We do have a lot to do and that is therapeutic. It gives us something else to focus on."

And in the slow times when the trucks are still, they reflect.

"It's hard, but we're going to get through it just fine."

The new chief has a lot of decisions to make and he refers to his friend in those moments.

"I find myself thinking as I make decisions, what would Keith do and, fortunately, I know what he would do. I worked with him for a long time and I learned a lot from him."

Hamilton said the first order of business is to fill positions. He has to fill the deputy chief job. He will also need to hire a new firefighter.