Okla. fire dept. celebrates 100 years

Firefighters, old and now, congregated Thursday to celebrate the 100-year anniversary and the dept.'s mission to protect and serve

By Adam Troxtell
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN, Okla. — Past, present and, possibly, the future packed inside Moore Fire Department Station 1 to celebrate a century of progress.

Moore FD celebrates its 100th year of existence this month. Current and retired firefighters, with their families and children, came together Thursday to recognize just how far the department has come.

“It’s hard to talk about it because it brings back so many memories, but I’ve been accused of starting this mess,” said James Clark, former Moore fire chief who retired in 1980. “It’s unreal the amount of progress this department has made in the last 50 years.”

Clark spoke to a station full of people who either helped make that progress possible or who are benefiting from it today.

The evening was complete with a color guard to bring in the American and Moore flags and a bagpiper as firefighters, families and friends honored the past and looked toward the future.

For the next year, Moore firefighters will wear commemorative 100-year badges.

They also received a coin and a lapel pin.

State Rep. Mark McBride, R-Moore, read a citation to mark the anniversary.

“This is quite the occasion, 100 years,” said Mayor Glen Lewis, one of several public figures to attend the ceremony. “I’ve been mayor for 23 of them. I remember when I got on, we towed engines back to the stations because they couldn’t make it. Now, we have a state-of-the-art station. I’d put [our firefighters] up against any station out there, and I mean that.”

Lewis also mentioned the importance of the fire department during bad weather, including the three EF-5 tornadoes Moore has experienced.

“You guys could write the book for everyone on how to respond to disasters,” Lewis said.

Chief Gary Bird explained how far Moore FD has come in 100 years.

Around the time it was formed as a volunteer force in 1916, the city still used a “bucket brigade” that accessed a well at the corner of Broadway and Main to battle blazes.

Later that year, the force upgraded to a fire engine that had to be pulled by hand to the scene.

The first fire truck was a Model-A Ford, and the first fire station, a 10-foot cube-shaped building, was built in 1918 near 109 E. Main St.

The department existed as a volunteer force until 1963, when Clark became Moore’s first paid chief.

He recalled the moment when 17 volunteers went to the city and said they had heard talk of bringing in a paid chief from outside.

“They said, ‘We feel like if you’re going to do this, you ought to make him the chief,’” Clark said. “And I crawled under the table.”

Clark said he stepped into the job because of the support he received from those volunteers. The last volunteer firefighter retired in 1977 and the station has been fully professional since.

“It’s really been fantastic,” Clark said, holding back tears at times. “You see what it is today. You’ve got one of the best, if not the best, in the nation.”

Bird said it was good to see all of the past firefighters and fire chiefs attend, since they were instrumental in bringing the department forward.

“They’re the ones who made it when money was tight and there wasn’t as much available,” Bird said. “We get it with the new stuff.”

As an example of the progress, Bird said the department now has two 75-foot ladders.

One of them is on the way and will be its biggest truck ever.

Progress is still under way, as well, City Manager Steve Eddy said. Should Moore residents vote to continue a public safety sales tax this year, the city wants to use the money to build a new Station 2 on 12th Street.

“There’s progress going forward, and I’m proud to be a part of it,” Eddy said. “Godspeed to the next 100 years.”

Copyright 2016 The Norman Transcript

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