Fewer Downtown OCFD Resources Pits Firefighters Against City

Wednesday, February 19th 2014, 5:40 pm
By: News 9

Oklahoma City firefighters took a battle against City Hall straight to the people of Oklahoma City Wednesday. At issue is a plan to move firefighters away from the downtown area. Union leaders say the move is a major safety concern, but city officials tell News 9 there is no reason to be alarmed.

The city says it will move one engine and 12 firefighters from the downtown fire station at NW 5th and Shartel Ave. to a new station on the far southwest side of Oklahoma City. That plan had firefighters going door-to-door in downtown neighborhoods Wednesday in hopes of drawing opposition.

"We feel like [citizens'] safety would be better enhanced if we left the rig downtown," Oklahoma City firefighter Cameron Weems said.

The rig in question is fire engine 51, which is home to 12 firefighters. It is also one of only two engines at the central downtown station. People who work in downtown Oklahoma City tell News 9 they share firefighters' concerns.

City officials say, even with fewer firefighters, nothing will change in the amount of resources responding to future calls. The Oklahoma City Firefighters Association says elected officials need to deal with the city's growing pains by providing more funding.

"[The city has] reduced the number of engine companies in the downtown area by 40 percent, so we're very concerned about that," union president Phil Sipe said.

Mayoral candidate Ed Shadid is on the side of the union. Shadid says the city needs to stop moving resources without having a long-term financing solution. Shadid also says the city is focusing on an old 2006 study that recommended fewer firefighters is the downtown area long before the Thunder and recent MAPs projects were realized.

A new budget will go before the city council in May. Until then, fire chief Keith Bryant says he's not worried.

"We still have the highest concentration of resources for fire response in the core area of the city," Bryant said.

In a statement, Mayor Mick Cornett says he is setting up a meeting with the union and city officials to discuss the issue. Cornett would not publicly take a stand on a possible solution Wednesday. The move is expected to occur in March.