Fired Up Over Fire Service

By State Rep. Mike Sanders

Over the days of September 21 through 24, I had the distinct honor of joining seven local fire chiefs and participating in an annual conference in Washington, D.C. Organized by the Office of the Oklahoma Fire Marshall, the trip was meant to bring issues that affect local fire service to the Oklahoma Congressional Delegation and learn about fire service training and challenges nationwide.

I am also pleased to announce that Randy Poindexter, Kingfisher’s fire chief, received the Public Safety Medal of Valor for his efforts in the 2007 Kingfisher floods.

Our group spent a day visiting with officials at the seven offices of Oklahoma’s federal delegation and personally met with U.S. Senator Jim Inhofe and Congressmen Frank Lucas and Tom Cole. We also spoke with staff from Congresswoman Mary Fallin’s office because she was in Oklahoma at the time. We spent an evening with Washington, D.C. firefighters and Dennis Rubin, Chief of Fire and Emergency Medical Services for Washington, D.C.

We listened to federal officials who taught us about geographic information systems and mapping terrain for fire protection, social media’s impact on fire protection and emergency management efforts, and new technological developments. These officials included several from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Acting U.S. Fire Administrator Glenn Gaines and the Superintendent of the U.S. Fire Academy Denis Onieal.

This was the eighth year for the Oklahoma Fire Marshall to host a conference in Washington, D.C. Efforts from this trip have led to increased participation in training by Oklahoma firefighters. Over the past two years, 150 fire service personnel attended the National Fire Academy resident courses in Maryland and 755 personnel participated in off-campus NFA courses, with $56,000 offered in grants. According to the National Fire Academy, 21,245 Oklahoma personnel have been trained through the NFA's State and Local Partner Sponsored Off-Campus Delivery since 1982.

During the trip, I was able to learn about fire service from national experts and the firefighters in attendance. I enjoyed discussing the relevance in Oklahoma with the local fire chiefs who attended. Firefighters are a critical component of public safety, especially in rural Oklahoma where fires are so prevalent. I am extremely grateful for this opportunity I had to further educate myself.

As always, I would love to hear from you. I can be reached at the Capitol at (405) 557-7407.

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