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Rural fire programs in jeopardy

July 4, 2014 The Shawnee News-Star: An agreement between the Department of Defense and the Environmental Protection Agency will have devastating effects on rural fire departments.

The Federal Excess Personal Property and Firefighter Property programs have helped Oklahoma Forestry Services by providing no-cost, excess DoD military trucks that are re-manufactured for water tenders and wildland engines.

An old agreement between the DoD and EPA, which aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, states the vehicles not meeting EPA emission standards will be destroyed instead of sold. It is unclear why the agreement is being suddenly enforced.

Paul Simpson, coordinator for the Rural Fire Defense Program, said he was shocked when he found out.

“What we’ve done is contacted Senator Inhoff’s office and Congressman Lankford’s office to let them know how devastating that would be,” Simpson said.

Without access to the equipment, many rural fire departments will have trouble operating; commercial trucks are too expensive for most departments. Currently, Oklahoma’s rural fire departments are utilizing 8,812 vehicles and pieces of equipment, valued at more than $150 million.

George Geissler, State Forester and Director of Oklahoma Forestry Services said the greenhouse gas emissions from the vehicles are marginal compared to emissions from an uncontrolled wildfire.

“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,” Geissler said.

The decision will have an impact all over the United States.

“This affects all 50 states,” Simpson said. “I just can’t imagine this happening, but it has.”

Oklahoma Forestry Services is working with state and federal officials as well as the National Association of State Foresters and United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service to fix the problem and continue to make the equipment available.

 

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