Bixby Fire Department
From Volunteer To Full-Time
Bixby has a long history of providing fire protection for the city. According to the Bixby Bulletin, Bixby Fire Department existed as early as 1921. The Bulletin reported, “It is thought by the members that something needs to be done towards securing some slicker suits for the boys to wear this winter, also, to do something toward securing an electric signal.”
In 1922, the Bulletin reported about the resignation of Fire Chief Fred P. Port, “He has organized a Volunteer Department here second to none in the state.” Port began with a crew of nine volunteers, two hand-hose carts and one hand pumped chemical wagon. Before he resigned, the town purchased a fully equipped Ford fire truck.
Bixby regularly updates its fire equipment, both for fighting fires and protecting the crew. Fire fighters, themselves, rebuilt and refurbished fire equipment for more efficiency and to extend usage. Many of the improvements were made through fund raisers, individual donations and grants.
Requirements for becoming a volunteer fire fighter were be available when needed, and have the potential to be a good fire fighter. Volunteers fire fighters were expected to be willing to get up at all hours at night, endure all temperatures and work in all weather conditions. The job required courage and physical stamina.
The men volunteer because, as Chief Ed Terry said in 1987, “You do it to help out the community and the people who are in need.”
Bill Bradley, who served as a Bixby fireman for 20 years, said, “Next to saving a life, saving a family’s home is the most rewarding.”
In 1950, Bixby began paying one dollar per fire-run to each fire fighter and ten dollars to the department. Later a state mandated pension plan was added.
In 1949, the fire department solicited membership for $3.00 a year to property owners outside the city limits. Bixby Rural Fire Protection Association resulted from this action.
Citizens, in 1968, passed a one-cent sales tax to pay fire fighters. The fire chief was C.G. Mitchell, known as Gid. Other fire fighters were Donald Smith and Ray McLaughlin. The three men became Bixby’s first full-time fire fighters.
The crew grew. In 2006, the fire department had 19 fire fighters and nine volunteers.
Smaller cities, like Bixby, are the training ground for larger fire departments. Steve Abel, current Bixby Fire Chief, said, in a 2006 interview, that local men seldom leave. They stay because they want to serve their community. “All of them have opportunities to go to other departments.” he said.
As the building boom continued in the Bixby area, a second fire station was constructed at 8300 East 121st Street in 1977. In 1978, an ambulance was purchased by the city. Later a second ambulance was added.
In 1980, the fire department moved to the City Municipal Building at 116 West Needles. Formerly, it was located east of the Nusho Theater on Dawes Street. Leonard Volunteer Fire Department is a sub-station of the Bixby Fire Department.
Glen Jones once quipped about the Fire Department, “We never lost a foundation.” Other property was lost, however, as fires challenged the department’s equipment and endurance.
In 1905, three buildings were destroyed including two general stores. In March 1917, J.D. Fullbright’s Ice Plant and the Sapp Building were destroyed. The volunteer fire fighters were able to save the Central Hotel in that fire. The Easton Feed Mill burned in 1947 and again in 1957. In 1966 a fire ravaged part of Bixby High School. The shop, agriculture room, drafting room, cafeteria and band room were completely destroyed in that fire. Other areas of the school were, also, damaged. In 1970, the Ramsey Building, formerly Frady Building, burned.