Tulsa's Fire Chief retired this week, after 34 years with the department, the last 16 as Chief. News on Six Reporter Emory Bryan was there for Tom Baker's last day.
Chief Baker will probably start retirement with a sore hand, because hundreds of people lined up to shake hands - and share a meal with the outgoing head of the fire department. Baker didn't have to, but he turned in his badge to mark the transition. "I want to pass the symbol of leadership and responsibility for the fire service to Mayor Savage, she accepts the responsibility to name the next person responsible, fire chief for the city."
Chief Baker was responsible for 16 years - as he leaves, the city is in a financial crisis, just as it was when he started. "We have been trying to find new sources of revenue for our department and the city." Baker began with a department short on people and equipment - and presided over the transition to a national accreditation and expansion. As an administrator - he only went to the most spectacular of fires. "We don't have sufficient water pressure in this area for a fire of this magnitude." But when firefighters did wrong, he was first to face the cameras. "This is not acceptable conduct in the City of Tulsa for the 723 members of the Tulsa Fire Department."
And now as goes into retirement, he's all but declared himself a candidate for city council. "Once we finish our yard signs and bumper stickers, oh that's the wrong notes." The department honored the chief with a new grill - a token of appreciation for a man who didn't think he would go so far in the fire service. "I had an expectation I would become a fire captain and maybe a district chief, but never personally thought I would be the fire chief.â€
Deputy Chief Allen LaCroix will serve as acting chief until the mayor decides on a new chief for the department.