By Drew Butler
Jerry Don Chandler with the Lake Murray Village Fire Department is proud of both his department and his station — as well he should be. After all, he helped build both from the ground up.
Chandler first moved to Lake Murray Village in 1975, long before they had a fire department of their own.
“We had several grassfires around and the only protection we had at that time was in Marietta, and that is quite a distance,” Chandler said. “We also had some help from Ardmore but we understand that they are a municipal fire department so they are paid to stay in Ardmore, and that’s understandable.”
Chandler said the idea to create their own fire department began in around 1983 when a retired fire chief from Oklahoma City moved into the neighborhood.
“He wanted us to have a fire department, but he didn’t want to be a part of it,” Chandler said. “But he had the credentials, so he helped us form up and we began from there.”
With the retired chief’s help and a truck from the forestry division, the Lake Murray Village Fire Department was born in 1984. Chandler described the early days.
“We probably had five or six members, and we had no funds,” Chandler said. “But we had an old truck that would shoot water, and we would go.”
Eventually they built a small building to house their equipment, but everyone knew they needed more space. In fact, at every meeting they held, one item on the agenda was the construction of a new building. Finally Chandler spoke up.
“I told them if we step out and show our interest in getting this building done, other folks will show some interest too,” Chandler said. With that, he took over as building superintendent and helped secure a contractor and funding for their new building.
Once funding fell into place, thanks to a grant from the Westheimer Foundation, Chandler helped with the construction himself. An electrician by trade, Chandler ended up installing all the electric.
Today the Lake Murray Village Fire Department has 15 members and Chandler happily listed off their equipment.
“Now we have a ’96 model engine that carries five people, and we have two tanker trucks,” Chandler said. “That means we’ve got 6,500 gallons of water at the door ready to go.”
In addition to these vehicles they also have four brush trucks to help them get to wildfires. All of this equipment was put to good use a few years ago when several grassfires ravaged the state.
“About five or six years ago, we had a breakout of fires all over,” Chandler said. “One day we had one start way out off Pike Road. The wind was just blowing tremendously and you couldn’t keep up with it. You couldn’t stay out of its way.”
Chandler said that rather than focusing on putting out the fire, the department instead focused on saving whatever they could. He believes the only thing that ultimately stopped the fire from spreading further was the Interstate.
“We would hop from this property to that property where someone had a house or barn,” Chandler said. “We would fight it so the fire would go around the property, and then we would just go to the next place.
While the Interstate was helpful when it came to stopping the wildfire, Chandler said he feels doing rescue work on the Interstate is the most hazardous part of his department’s job.
“To me fighting a great big racing grass fire is dangerous, but it’s nothing compared to that Interstate and we go out there day and night,” Chandler said.
As the officer in charge of rescue training, he said that he cannot tell his crew often enough not to turn their backs to the traffic when working a rescue scene.
“People act like you’re not there, and just drive like maniacs,” Chandler said.
When there is an accident with injury, his department helps assist the ambulance. Their responsibilities include putting a heavy piece of equipment behind the ambulance for its protection and putting out safety cones to steer traffic away. Chandler said he’s seen drivers run over the safety cones and weave in and out of closed lanes trying to get ahead of one car.
In spite of all this, Chandler loves his volunteer work.
“I’m like a lot of the other guys in our department,” Chandler said. “We’re just civic oriented and do this to help people.”
Chandler describes 35 years as a volunteer firefighter
By Drew Butler