NEWS | March 26, 2021

Camp Gruber opens first fire station since WWII

By Anthony Jones Oklahoma National Guard

Camp Gruber Training Center officially opened a newly completed fire station with a ribbon cutting at the National Guard training base in Eastern Oklahoma, March 24, 2021.

Fire Station Number 1 is the first fire station on Camp Gruber since the 1940s, when the base served as a major training location for Army troops headed overseas to fight in World War II, according to Lee Horst, Jr., chief of the newly formed Camp Gruber Fire Department.

Planning for the fire station began three years ago when Horst was hired as Camp Gruber’s fire chief and was tasked with designing a fire service emergency program for the base that covers more than 33,000 acres.

“I started designing that program, hiring staff and construction of the building,” Horst said. “The staff is in place, the equipment is in place and now the fire station is complete. This is the culmination of everything we’ve been working for, so this is an exciting day for us.”

The station is manned 24 hours a day by firefighters and has three fire engines, a tender and a type 3 wildland fire truck. In addition to the larger trucks, the station also has two side-by-side off-road vehicles equipped to fight fires in rugged terrain.

Col. Brad Carter, Camp Gruber’s commander echoed Horst’s excitement while addressing those attending the ceremony.

“Having a facility like this and the crew we have here on Camp Gruber, I can’t tell you how outstanding that is for not just the Oklahoma National Guard but the surrounding communities,” Carter said. “We look forward to working with every agency and community to bring the things we have to offer at Camp Gruber and putting our training together for the benefit of everyone – that’s what this is all about.”

Camp Gruber has relied on mutual aid compacts from surrounding community and volunteer fire departments for at least the past five decades.

“Those departments are stretched thin already and they’ve had to respond here to assist Camp Gruber without us being able to mutually return that,” Horst said. “Having a fire emergency services here not only benefits Camp Gruber, but benefits the surrounding community by paying back that mutual aid they’ve been providing for years.”

Camp Gruber has mutual aid pacts with fire departments across Muskogee County, Oklahoma including the cities of Muskogee and Fort Gibson as well as The Oklahoma Forestry Department, said Horst.

Horst said he was thankful to have been able to build Camp Gruber’s fire emergency service program from the ground up, adding the biggest help in making the program successful was being fortunate enough to hire several experienced firefighters to build the program around.

One of Camp Gruber's new fire fighters was a shift commander and oversaw the Norman Fire Department’s EMS division. Horst hired two battalion chiefs from cities in Eastern Oklahoma as well as the Bixby Fire Department chief who now serves as the Camp Gruber fire marshal.

“When you start something from nothing you have to hire experience… We captured some incredible experience,” Horst said. “They have advised me on how to do it ‘right’. It’s been a team effort and I’m extremely proud of that staff and what they’ve accomplished.”