Fire officials prepare for Devon skyscraper


Saturday, August 30th 2008, 10:47 pm
By: News 9


By Rusty Surette, NEWS 9

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Devon's planned high-rise tower in downtown Oklahoma City will change the look of the city's skyline over the following years. It will also change the way firefighters train to deal with disaster.

Oklahoma City is no stranger to fires in high-rise buildings.

Dozens of firefighters battled a big blaze on top of a University of Oklahoma medical building still under construction.

A few months later, fire officials fought another blaze at the top of a multi-story apartment complex.

"We are ready for any challenge," Deputy Chief Cecil Clay said.

Clay said the Oklahoma City Fire Department has always been ready to tackle any fire, no matter how high in the building is, but Devon's proposed 925 foot tower is in a very tall league of its own.

"We always worry about the fact, "What if those sprinklers or codes that we put in place to keep people safe, what if they have a failure?'"

Clay and others have implemented a new attack plan for fires in the city's tallest buildings.

Changes include an automatic five-alarm response for any fire in a building over three stories tall, new equipment and different ways of approaching the fire, including keeping some of the heavy bunker gear off firefighters until they are closer to the flames.

The goal is to conserve physical energy if firefighters are forced to run up several flights of stairs.

"By the time you get up there, you've done the equivalent to running a couple of miles," Clay said.

All high-rises are subject to the same rules and regulations, but Clay said Devon's skyscraper may have to use bigger fire pumps and various water pressures in its sprinklers due to its height.

"We're the last stitch effort that comes in there and does in and takes care of business," Clay said. "We are prepared."

In addition to the high-rise changes, the city also has plans to build a new fire station in Bricktown near Sheridan Avenue and Lincoln Boulevard. The fire department plans to break ground on the project in 2009.