Oklahoma Sen. Jim Inhofe announces deal to save program for rural fire departments

A Defense Department agency says it will continue to make surplus equipment available to rural firefighters, but Sen. Jim Inhofe says the modified arrangement will mean more red tape for Oklahoma’s fire departments.
by Chris Casteel Published: July 9, 2014
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photo - Sen. Jim Inhofe
The Oklahoma lawmaker applauded Wednesday’s agreement to continue Department of Defense surplus vehicle sales to rural fire departments.  Susan Walsh
Sen. Jim Inhofe The Oklahoma lawmaker applauded Wednesday’s agreement to continue Department of Defense surplus vehicle sales to rural fire departments. Susan Walsh

— Sen. Jim Inhofe announced a deal Wednesday that will allow rural fire departments continued access to surplus military vehicles that don’t meet Environmental Protection Agency emission standards.

The new arrangement will involve more red tape for the many Oklahoma fire departments that acquire and modify the equipment, but Inhofe said it was the best short-term solution.

The senator began working with the EPA and the Department of Defense after The Oklahoman reported last week that rural firefighters would no longer be able to use the vehicles. Gov. Mary Fallin was also involved in talks with the EPA.

George Geissler, director for Oklahoma Forestry Services, had warned that the loss of access to the military vehicles would result in increased exposure to loss of life and property, and increased fire suppression costs in rural Oklahoma.

Cecil Michael, rural fire coordinator for the Northern Oklahoma Development Authority, said the Rural Fire Defense Program had benefited fire departments for about 35 years and provided “millions and millions of dollars of equipment.”

The threat to the program was the result of a decision by the Defense Department to comply with a longstanding policy requiring the destruction of equipment that didn’t meet pollution standards. Inhofe, a senior member of the committees that oversee the EPA and the Defense Department, enlisted other lawmakers in the effort to keep the program alive.

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by Chris Casteel
Washington Bureau
Chris Casteel began working for The Oklahoman's Norman bureau in 1982 while a student at the University of Oklahoma. After covering the police beat, federal courts and the state Legislature in Oklahoma City, he moved to Washington in 1990, where...
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