theadanews.com - Ada, Oklahoma

State News

July 3, 2014

OK Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry reacts to feds' decision to ax rural fire department assistance program

Oklahoma City — Rural fire departments across Oklahoma and the nation will be devastated by an agreement between the Department of Defense (DoD) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which stops making available excess DoD vehicles that are critical to rural fire departments’ ability to fight wildland fires. 

Through two long-standing federal excess property programs, Federal Excess Personal Property (FEPP) and Firefighter Property program (FPP), Oklahoma Forestry Services has been able to assist rural fire departments by providing no-cost military trucks that are then re-manufactured into wildland engines and water tenders through its Rural Fire Assistance Program.  

Without access to the vehicles and other equipment, many rural fire departments will find it difficult to operate, as commercial trucks are cost prohibitive for most departments.  

Currently, 8,812 vehicles and pieces of equipment, valued at over $150 million, are being utilized by Oklahoma’s rural fire departments.

The stoppage decision by the US Army Tank-Automotive Command (TACOM) is based on an old agreement between the DoD and EPA aimed at reducing emissions.  

Under the agreement, vehicles not meeting EPA emission standards would be destroyed instead of sold.  

It is unclear why the agreement is being enforced at this time.

“This action will ultimately result in increased exposure of communities to loss of life and property associated with wildfire, as well as increased fire suppression costs,” said George Geissler, State Forester and Director, Oklahoma Forestry Services. 

“The greenhouse gas emissions associated with the vehicles are marginal at best compared to emissions of an uncontrolled wildfire," he said.

Local fire departments are the first to respond to most to most wildfires.  

In many states, including Oklahoma, local departments are first on the scene for more than 75% of all wildfires .  

Quick initial response protects lives, property and reduces fire suppression costs for local, state and federal entities.

Oklahoma Forestry Services is working with state and federal officials, the National Association of State Foresters and the USDA Forest Service to gather more information and seek a long term solution to resolve the issue and make this equipment available.

 

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