A former Mustang fire chief has been named Oklahoma’s fire marshal.
Carl Hickman served as Mustang’s fire chief for almost 13 years, from 2005 until his retirement in December 2017.
“Without a doubt, that was the best job I ever had,” Hickman said. “I can’t say enough good about the city of Mustang, and how they accepted me.”
Hickman’s career began as a student at the Oklahoma State University School of Fire Protection and Safety. During that time, he also served as a volunteer firefighter for Stillwater.
“In those days, 17 or 18 of us actually lived in the campus fire station,” Hickman said. “We were allowed to stay for free, but as part of the agreement, we had to volunteer our services to the fire department. I was lucky enough to be able to do that.”
From there, Hickman began work as a firefighter in his hometown of Sulphur, before going to work at the state fire marshal’s office as an investigator.
Eventually, he returned to Sulphur as that department’s chief.
In 2005, he accepted the chief position at the Mustang Fire Department.
“I was the first outside fire chief they had ever hired,” Hickman said. “I had an absolutely fantastic group of people that we worked with, both in the fire department and at the city. The community is very supportive. It felt like home.”
When Hickman retired, he returned to Sulphur.
“My grandkids live there, so I moved back, and then I just pretty much did whatever my wife told me, and that was it,” Hickman said, chuckling. “Life was good.”
Then, about a year ago, Hickman received a call from the chairman of the Oklahoma State Fire Marshal Commission, who asked if Hickman could fill in as interim fire marshal.
“I agreed to do that,” he said.
In October, Hickman began work as the interim fire marshal. And by the time the COVID-19 pandemic picked up steam in March, he had begun a few projects in the department that he would like to see completed.
As the months passed, he said, the fire marshal commission – the group that handles the hiring and firing of fire marshals – kept asking Hickman if he would commit to staying on as fire marshal, rather than simply on an interim basis.
“I finally decided that I’ll hang around for a while, if they would like for me to be here,” Hickman said. “I’m not going to commit to any particular time frame. But I am absolutely honored that they would ask me to fill in, and to name me the full-time state fire marshal.”
Under state statute, the fire marshal’s office has three main areas for which it is responsible: fire and arson investigation, code enforcement and public fire education.
As far as Hickman’s goals, he said the department is in the process of changing its record management to a new software system.
“That’s a big deal,” he said. “We are on an antiquated system that really is no longer being supported, so we’re changing everything over to new software and new records management.”
The process began in spring and Hickman hopes to have the new software fully operational by the beginning of 2021.
“I think it will make our operation much more efficient,” he said. “As it is now, an agent in the field has to call in to the state office for information on inspections or on a building they may be looking at. This (new software) will provide him or her access in the field without having to call in.”
Hickman said he also hopes to spearhead changes within the fire marshal’s office that will provide better services for fire and police departments throughout the state.
He hopes to implement a kind of task force that would allow multiple agents to respond to high-profile incidents.
“The team could respond immediately and be able to cover a lot of the investigative duties within a short amount of time,” he said. “It’s good customer service, and good professional service. We need to be able to provide the help that’s needed and do it in a professional way.”