Fire Chief celebrates one year on the job

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It has been just days since Eric Harlow celebrated his first year as Guthrie’s Fire Chief and in those months the chief has done and seen a lot, but looks ahead to the future to continue making strides within the Guthrie Fire Department.

Harlow celebrated year number one on March 21st after Lester Branch retired with 23 years of service. Harlow was selected from a group of 30 applications that extended into five states.

“It’s been great,” Harlow said on his first year. “Very challenging and busy year not only for the fire department, but for the city as a whole. With the tornado and wild fires we’ve had this past year in the state.”

With a record heat in 2011, Harlow and the fire department battled numerous grass fires during the summer months along with the destructive May 24th tornado that ripped through a good portion of the northern parts of the city.

“The weathers been kind of uncooperative. We finally got rain and hopefully that will alleviate any wild-fire problems we’ll have this spring,” an optimistic Harlow said.

Harlow, a Stroud High School alum, said the transition as a fire chief and a new fire house has been smooth after serving as the Deer Creek Assistant Fire Chief.

“For the most part it was an easy transition having known a lot of the guys in the department coming in and visa versa, them knowing me it made the honeymoon period a lot easier,” Harlow said who is preparing the first ever Citizens Fire Academy that begins this week.

According to Harlow, the smooth transition is credited to the city administration staff.

“I can’t say enough about the city administrative team as a whole from Chief (Damon) Devereux at the police department to Maxine Pruitt out at public works. Everybody works great together. Everybody is really more like a big family and it makes it a lot easier when we’re such a close-knit group like that to be able to work together for any project that any agency in the city has.”

Guthrie City Manager Matt Mueller not only says Harlow has been a great impact on the department and community, but quickly replied by saying he is among the best at what he does.

“Chief Harlow has been a great addition the City of Guthrie,” Mueller said. “He has brought great ideas to the fire department and is proving to be a leader in the region.”

The Fire Department is a full-time organization with 25 full-time employees. Twenty-four have the ranks of firefighter, lieutenant, captain and battalion chief and are assigned to emergency response duties on three shifts.

Harlow continues to be impressed with the sales tax numbers and hopes those numbers continue to be on the rise with some of the equipment issues the department is facing.

“Sales tax numbers are up which is very encouraging for the future. We’ve got a lot of equipment issues and we’ve made headway in fixing a lot of them, but we’ve got several trucks that are past the 20 year mark that are starting to show their age more and more every day. We’ll be working on long-term solutions to rehab or replace some of those vehicles,” Harlow said.

According to the City of Guthrie, the department operates with a roughly $1.5 million budget, and participates in a dedicated one-fifth cent county fire sales tax split equally between 13 county fire departments. The department also provides EMS and ambulance service for about half of Logan County. EMS has an approximate annual revenue of $700,000.

The Chief said they are increasing their EMS capabilities with 9 members of the crew taking an advance EMT class from the Eastern Oklahoma County Technology Center inside the Guthrie station.

“Once that is done, a little over 90% of our personnel will be trained at the advanced EMT, or what used to be known as the EMT intermediate level,” Harlow said.

Behind every great fire chief is his staff and a staff that has not seen much turn over in the past year.

“We have a great bunch of guys. We had to hire three new personnel since I started due to retirement and couple of resignations to go to other departments. We’ve hired some what local ties and so far they are working out to be great hands.”

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