Signs of Piedmont’s growth over the years have been new schools, businesses and homes, but the city is also trying to expand its services and after approval from Piedmont voters in 2009 the fire department was able to go full time.
“A lot of people now refer to it as full time but this thing has been full time for a long time, just without pay” Andy Logan, Piedmont fire chief said. “But this is a big step that will allow us to really build for the future and our growth.”
Logan, a 12-year veteran of the fire department, is now one of two full time staff members on the department along with assistant chief Jarrott Dowdy. Passage of a one-cent sales tax last year has allowed the department to fund two full time positions and pay many of its volunteers when they are on duty. The transition to full time officially took place on July 1 and Logan said it couldn’t have come a moment too soon.
“As far as growth in call volume alone its been ridiculous,” Logan said. “When I came on in 1995 we ran a total of 135 calls. Last year we ran 368 calls. So, that right there tells you how much we have grown.”
In addition to higher call volume the department has had to keep up with increases in training requirements and maintenance. Now there is always a at least one firefighter at the station between the hours of 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. and a firefighter on duty within the city limits after hours. Logan said the result has been faster response times to fires and medical calls but it has also allowed the department to focus on other needs.
“We can stay on top of maintenance a lot better,” Logan said. “We find things sooner that can be repaired cheaply before they become a major expense.”
Logan said the department is also able to better participate in a national fire reporting system that is required by the government and also spend more time in public education programs including visits to local schools to teach fire safety.
Logan said the community’s support for a fire sales tax has resulted in a safer Piedmont but plans continue to be in the works for expanding the fire service even further as additional revenue comes in. A short-term goal for Logan is to staff the fire station with at least two firefighters 24 hours a day and over the long-term adding even more firefighters.
“That will happen with more revenue,” Logan said about future expansion. “We are right now only looking at projections because we have never done this before. But its coming, its coming quick.
“The transition has been working great. We are building towards the future. In no way is this the perfect scenario but its a step. I feel like the department, city and the citizens are all on the same page and headed in the same direction.”
How Your Fire Department Works
State law only allows cities to field 911 emergency calls with a 24 hour center. Currently any 911 calls made in Piedmont are routed to Yukon who will dispatch the emergency call to the on duty firefighter.
A total of 17 volunteers and two staff positions makeup the department with plans to expand as revenue increases. Piedmont firefighters are dispatched to fire and medical calls but volunteers are prohibited by state law to ignore traffic laws on the way to a fire. Its an inconvenience that Logan said can only be addressed by adding more on-duty members of the department.
Logan said the department has a strong relationship with several other departments that can provide mutual aide in the event of a large emergency. Depending on what part of town a call is in departments from Deer Creek, Oklahoma City, Okarche or Cashion will assist the Piedmont Fire Department.