Surplus Program For Rural Fire Departments Reinstated

Thursday, July 10th 2014, 6:36 pm
By: News 9

The future now seems secure for rural fire departments. Many were left with doubt after their link to equipment was cut by the federal government. Now, that assistance program is back, but not without some skepticism.

The Department of Defense originally cut the Rural Fire Assistance Program due to EPA emission standards, but after a week of complaints, the program is back with one requirement.

Just last week, Guthrie Fire Chief Eric Harlow only had hope for the future of rural fire departments across Oklahoma.

"Hopefully we will get something figured out...There are departments that will not survive," Chief Harlow said.

7/2/2014 Related Story: Rural Fire Departments In Jeopardy After Federal Program Cut

Now the federal program that supplies rural fire departments with surplus military equipment and saved the Guthrie Fire Department more than $400,000 has been reinstated, but without full approval from those impacted.

"It's great, because our guys will get the equipment they need, but it puts an extra burden on our friends at the forestry service," Chief Harlow said.

We're happy we got some movement, and some decisions have been made to reinstate the program, but the bittersweet part of it is the program is not in place the way it was previously," State Fire Management Chief Mark Goeller said.

The Department of Defense now requires fire departments to return the equipment once they're done using it. Meaning the state will have to eventually track, store and move the equipment, using resources Chief Goeller says the state doesn't have.

"There are a lot of different pieces that will have to go into effect for us to manage that program," Goeller added.

Under the old program, the fire departments such as Guthrie were given the titles along with the equipment.

"It's unfortunate in the fact that the departments put their money and their effort in fixing those trucks up, but when they're done they have to return it," Chief Harlow said.

Senator Inhofe did release a statement on his website and said he will “continue to address the unnecessary regulation created by the agreement.”

7/9/2014 Related Story: Inhofe Praises Deal On Surplus Military Equipment

The state forestry says the federal government wants the equipment returned so it can be destroyed properly.