The Washington Times-Herald

Z_CNHI News Service

July 2, 2014

No more military trucks for small-town firehouses

OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. — A government program that sent spare military trucks, tankers and other vehicles to rural fire departments throughout the country has dried up, potentially putting small towns on the hook for expensive, new equipment.

The Department of Defense cancelled a program that provided $150 million worth of extra equipment each year to small fire departments in 48 states, a spokeswoman for the U.S Forest Service confirmed.

Engines in the vehicles did not comply with government environmental standards, according to Jennifer Jones, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Forest Service, which has acted as an intermediary matching surplus vehicles with states that needed them.

The decision caused a scramble in Oklahoma, where about 800 rural departments use 8,812 pieces of surplus equipment, said George Geissler, state director of forestry services. Each year the state gets $13 million to $15 million worth of equipment, which it distributes to a waiting list of needy departments.

Few details were available about how the shutdown affects equipment already assigned to those firehouses. A spokeswoman for a Defense Department surplus program said she was unaware of any changes.

One of the program's biggest benefits has been to provide vehicles that would otherwise cost $150,000 to $200,000 to small departments. Instead those fire departments only have to equip the vehicle - at a cost of $30,000 to $40,000.

“There are a lot of departments out there that are not going to be able to afford this," Geissler said. "They serve small areas — small, rural communities — and to get a piece of equipment like we’re talking about, they’re just not going to be able to afford it.”

An example is the volunteer department in Little Axe, serves 4,500 residents west of Shawnee and has an annual budget of about $47,000. The department which got a tanker through the program. Chief Allen Schneider said the hand-me-down truck saved nearly $150,000.

“That’s a lot of years in my budget to pay for one truck,” he said, adding that ending the program is “ludicrous.”

In a statement, the National Association of State Foresters said the program delivered more than $150 million each year in surplus equipment used by fire departments throughout the country. Ending it increases the risk of lost lives and property, the group said, and inflates the costs of fighting wildfire.

“For many small departments, federal excess equipment may be the only equipment they can afford," the group said.

Janelle Stecklein covers politics and government for CNHI newspapers in Oklahoma. Contact her at jstecklein@cnhi.com.

1
Text Only
Z_CNHI News Service
  • sleepchart.jpg America’s sleep-deprived cities

    Americans might run on sleep, but those living in the country's largest cities don't appear to run on much.

    August 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • Who should pay for your kids ACT?

    Thirteen states paid for 11th-grade students in all public high schools to take the ACT college admission test this year, with several more planning to join them in 2015.

    August 20, 2014

  • Pets.jpg Why do people look like their pets?

    As much as we might quibble over the virtues and vices of Canis domesticus, however, and over whether human nature is any better or worse than dog nature, even dog fanciers don't usually want to look like a dog.

    August 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • Lindley, Tom.jpg Another stumble begs questions about Notre Dame

    Notre Dame's vaunted reputation for formidable athletics and serious academics is again sullied by a cheating scandal. Maybe the high standards of the Fighting Irish are just too good to be true.

    August 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • Ice bucket challenge trending up

    Internet trends are a dime a dozen these days. Everything from Tebowing to planking to the cinnamon challenge can cause a wave of social media activity that can last for weeks before fizzling out.

    August 19, 2014

  • Five myths about presidential vacations

    In the nuclear age, presidents may have only minutes to make a decision that could affect the entire world. They don't so much leave the White House as they take a miniature version of it with them wherever they go.

    August 15, 2014

  • taylor.armerding.jpg Debate filled with 'hate' gives Hamas a pass

    Political invective is dialed to the max, and everyone who disagrees is a "hater." But the hate police, who are so eager to cast labels, are ignoring the real wells of contempt in the Middle East.

    August 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • Lindley, Tom.jpg OU player's suspension shows pitfalls of addressing sexual assault on campus

    The University of Oklahoma's leading tackler is suspended for the season - or maybe not. Frank Shannon is still practicing with the Sooners amid a court battle over whether OU can discipline him after a sexual assault investigation. The tough issue of addressing assault on campus isn't just OU's problem.

    August 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • Can 6 seconds launch a career? A generation of Vine stars sure hopes so.

    A year ago, Shawn Mendes filmed himself singing a tentative acoustic cover of the Justin Bieber song "As Long as You Love Me" and put the results on Vine. He wasn't expecting much response. "I didn't really want anything to happen; I just kind of wanted to see what people would think," says Mendes, 16. "I posted that first Vine and woke up the next morning with 10,000 followers. That was pretty cool."

    August 14, 2014

  • Freshman.jpg 8 crucial tips for college freshmen

    With school starting back up around the country, no one has a bigger deer-in-the-headlights look than college freshmen.

    August 14, 2014 1 Photo