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Marlow looks to add additional paid firefighters

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MARLOW, Okla._Nearly two weeks after two people died in a house fire in Marlow, residents are calling for change.

Nearly 75 people attended Marlow's city council meeting Tuesday night, saying they want more full-time firefighters on staff. They said having more paid employees means quicker response times and better chances of preventing fires from turning tragic.

Right now, Marlow's population is just over 4,600 and they have three paid firefighters. Several other towns in Oklahoma with similar populations are working with considerably more paid employees than Marlow. Sulphur has 11 paid and 14 volunteers. Kingfisher has 16 paid and three volunteers. Frederick has a population of 3,900 and has 10 paid and 10 volunteers, while Marlow has three paid and 19 volunteers.

While the size of the staff is similar, the breakdown is much different for Marlow. When it comes to response times, it took only seven minutes for fire crews to arrive that fateful night two weeks ago in Marlow, but now many say when it comes down to life and death, that's just too long.

"A fire, as it starts and grows in size, each minute that it burns it's doubling in size which creates a larger fire, more energy. So each minute that it's burning that nobody's there, it's burning out of control with no reduction," explained State Fire Marshal Judah Shepherd.

Shepherd was among the 75 people who lent their support to the Marlow Fire Department Tuesday night, saying adding to the payroll is beneficial to everyone.

"They're not waiting for someone to get here to respond, they're taken right out the door, it's easier on their volunteers," said Shepherd.

"That's what government's all about. When you learn something that maybe should be changed or should be looked at, you bring it to the governing body," said City Administrator Jason McPherson.

McPherson says he's impressed with the outpouring of concern in town, and now the city wants to work on considering those changes. However, he says the process won't be quick.

"You may have learned that we have a smaller fire department overnight but it cannot be fixed overnight. It's bigger than this community right now, and so what's possible, what's not possible is just too early to say," said McPherson.

Now the city turns to research to find a solution to make Marlow the safest it can be. Shepherd says the addition would only improve the already superior crew.

"If we can increase with full time firefighters even though they're doing a tremendous job already, it'll cut that time down that they can get there to start attacking the fire, to help keep it down, to help make rescues," said Shepherd.

The city says it will be a long road that could take several months. McPherson says they'll go to work by contacting other towns in the state to compare different departments and hire outside advisors to help with the exploratory process.

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