Volunteer fire department takes heat from Oakhurst residents
9:43 PM, Feb 20, 2013
4:55 AM, Feb 21, 2013
OAKHURST, Okla. - People in the small community of Oakhurst between Tulsa and Sapulpa say their volunteer fire department just can't cut it.
Oakhurst residents say they feel forgotten. But help is on the way. A Tulsa County commissioner is now calling for changes.
Oakhurst, Okla. is just 15 minutes down the road from Tulsa, but it feels a world away.
2NEWS interviewed a woman who lives there who didn't want us to reveal her identity because she worries for her family's safety.
"Oakhurst is a forgotten city. And they're just letting us sit out here until we fail or just dwindle away," she said.
She doesn't trust the Oakhurst Fire Department. She says she worries about long response times and aging fire equipment.
"If my house was to set on fire, it would burn down before they could get here," she said.
For that very reason, Tulsa County Commissioner Karen Keith asked fire departments from Tulsa, Sapulpa and Berryhill to step in and offer fire protection.
"They're a great bunch of people, they do care. But it's just never consistent. And when you're dealing with people's lives and their properties, it needs to be consistent and something they can really count on," Keith said, speaking of Oakhurst.
Keith says the Oakhurst Fire Department may even end up getting disbanded.
"I would tell Oakhurst residents that they're protected better than they've ever been," she said.
But despite her wishes, Assistant Fire Chief Mike Blancett says Oakhurst isn't going anywhere.
"We're not closed. We're here for the community," Blancett said.
Blancett admits they've had their problems. He says he came back to the fire department after a few years off to get it back on track.
"I live here. And it was not as safe as it could've been. But we're changing that," Blancett said.
He believes they have the community's support.
"Our main goal is to protect these people. Make sure they're safe in the community," Blancett said.
It comes too late for the woman we talked to. She tells us Oakhurst Fire Department had its chance.
"I would rather have a fire truck with trained people, no matter where that came from," she said.
2NEWS spoke with about 10 other Oakhurst residents. All but one told us they'd feel safer if larger fire departments like Tulsa and Sapulpa responded to fires in their community.
Keith says INCOG helps manage these fire departments. She says it's possible the Oakhurst Fire Department could be declassified and lose its funding.