Ban on Defense Department vehicle sales to affect Oklahoma's rural fire departments

Through the Rural Fire Defense Program, forestry services have acquired federal surplus vehicles for pennies on the dollar. A new federal agreement will stop the sale of defense vehicles that don’t meet emission standards.
By Kyle Schwab, Staff Writer Published: July 2, 2014
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A decades-old program allowing fire departments to purchase surplus military vehicles appears to be no more.

An agreement between the Department of Defense and the Environmental Protection Agency, aimed at reducing emissions, will stop the sale of defense vehicles that don’t meet the EPA’s emission standards, the state forestry service reports.

“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 for Oklahoma Forestry Services. “The greenhouse gas emissions associated with the vehicles are marginal at best compared to emissions of an uncontrolled wildfire.”

Through the Rural Fire Defense Program, forestry services have acquired federal surplus vehicles for pennies on the dollar, Guthrie Fire Chief Eric Harlow said. The vehicles brought to Oklahoma have been dispersed to departments in need of equipment. Fire crews have 180 days to fully equip vehicles for fighting fires before they’re inspected.

The Guthrie Fire Department has two trucks that were provided through the program, Harlow said. The agreement won’t prevent crews from using the re-manufactured vehicles they already have, but not being able to acquire more vehicles through the program is a major concern for Harlow and small, volunteer departments.

“It’s a constant battle with the new equipment,” Harlow said. “It’s a lot of high-tech equipment and it’s prone to having issues and it causes a lot of down time for our equipment.”

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