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After house bill eliminates age limit, rural fire departments are growing across Oklahoma

Posted at 4:53 PM, Nov 30, 2017
and last updated 2017-12-01 13:00:07-05

TULSA, Okla. -- Blackdog Fire is expanding their department.

The passage of House Bill 2005 eliminates the 45-year-old age limit by bringing on new firefighters without adding them to the state's pension plan. Now Blackdog has additional resources as they face changing roles.

"First responder on medical to hazmat to when they call us for cows in the road. They tend to pass those off to the sheriff but we still get them," Chief Paul Reeves said.

About 85 percent of firefighters in Oklahoma are volunteers. That means on the Osage County side of Tulsa, sometimes it's a skeleton crew arriving on scene.

"It's pretty lonely when you get here and there's two people and it's a structure fire. It's a pretty lonely feeling. You'll notice Tulsa, when they come out, they come out with a couple of trucks and the battalion and everything else because they have the people," Reeves said.

Reeves said more staff means knocking down fires faster, and homeowners will see less property damage. About 200 recruits came on since legislation went into effect November of 2015. Crews need this now more than ever as rural coverage areas expand.

"Every day is taxing. You never know when something is going to come. Whether you're going to get a call for an accident, medical, house fire, whatever. But it's nice to know when you arrive you've got other people coming also," Reeves said.

Blackdog is already noticing an impact as their growing team recruits more firefighters, and the chief hopes this progress will continue.

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