By John M. Wylie II, Editor
Note: Beause of a production error, the first draft of this editorial was published this week instead of the final version. This is the final version.
Despite a raging fire and high winds, a large part of Old Town Claremore was saved Saturday night and Sunday morning when the 1912 Christ Presbyterian Church burned.
Claremore’s fire department needed help, and units from Northwest, Foyil, Verdigris, Limestone, Tri-District, Rolling Hills, Tiawah, Catoosa and Pryor were there to provide it.
Claremore responded with 19 firefighters and seven pieces of equipment—“about everything we had,” the fire chief told us.
It wasn’t nearly enough. Other departments contributed 33 firefighters and nine pieces of equipment. With help and cooperation, the fire was contained to the original structure despite embers blown around by 32 mph wind gusts.
Even with all that help, it took six hours to bring the fire under control, and almost 11 hours more before the last fire units could leave the scene.
The outside response was what Claremore’s hard-working and highly-professional firefighters needed and deserved.
It was what the city’s residents needed and deserved.
It was way more than the city’s arrogant and short-sighted leadership deserved.
The city leadership long ago told the county it didn’t need or want anything to do with the new central dispatch center.
It would go its own way, with a radio system incompatible with the others in the county.
Saturday night, radio communications were a problem. We sympathize with all the firefighters, because it could easily have gotten one of them or a civilian killed.
In our only conversation with City Manager Jim Thomas last March 1, he told us the only way a fire got put out within Claremore’s fenceline was if Claremore’s Fire Department took care of it or someone squirted it with a garden hose.
Claremore doesn’t want its fire department outside the city limits, which is why fire districts were created to protect the areas in the Claremore fenceline and beyond.
And look who came through when the resources provided to that Fire Department weren’t adequate for the job—those fire districts. They weren’t squirting garden hoses, either. They brought just what Claremore asked for, high-quality equipment and top-notch firefighters.
A key factor was Limestone’s very sophisticated aerial truck, which that district is very generous about sharing with other area departments.
Don’t hold your breath for a public apology from Thomas for his insult. Heck, we doubt he’ll bother to say thank you (although we know the firefighters and their officers will have said that early and often to their fellow firefighters who helped save their city).
We’ve said it before, and Saturday proved it: Claremore needs to work in partnership with the rest ofRogersCounty.
The arrogance of the city’s leaders deserves to be slapped down.
Mutual aid means what it says—mutual.
So perhaps it is time for each department or district that helped save the city to send the city manager and council a big fat bill for the costs. It won’t be cheap.
And what if the city won’t pay? What if the city won’t drop its efforts to sabotage central dispatching?
Then the next time Claremore has a crisis, perhaps the other departments should respond just long enough to make sure no lives are in danger. And then simply leave.
Marie Antoinette said, “Let them eat cake.”
We say to the Claremore leadership, “You can eat ash.”