BEEF Daily

EPA Plans Will Cripple Rural Firefighting Crews

If the EPA has its way, rural firefighting crews will no longer be able to utilize retired Department of Defense vehicles to fight wildfires in a cost-effective manner. This could be a costly, and potentially deadly, decision for rural communities. What do you think?

It looks like the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is at it again – and this time the agency’s actions could endanger the lives of rural Americans, their livelihoods, and the health of the environment. In a new agreement, the EPA wants to stop the Department of Defense (DOD) from allowing use of excess DOD vehicles by rural fire departments to fight wildland fires. I can only imagine how devastating this could be to some communities.

I have several family members who serve on volunteer firefighting crews during wildfire season, and the ability to respond quickly to these fires can spell the difference between saving or losing acres of trees, pastures and homes. Without these rural fire departments, these small communities will have to rely on larger urban firefighting crews, which likely means longer response times.


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According to the Oklahoma Farm News Update, “Through two long-standing federal excess property programs, Federal Excess Personal Property (FEPP) and Firefighter Property program (FPP), state forestry services across the country have been able to assist rural fire departments by providing no-cost military trucks that are then re-manufactured into wildland engines and water tenders through its Rural Fire Assistance Program. Without access to the vehicles and other equipment, many rural fire departments will find it difficult to operate, as commercial trucks are cost-prohibitive for most departments.”  

Not only will this limit how effectively rural firefighters can respond to wildfires, but it will be more costly for rural communities. Plus, it likely will mean more air pollution and particulates due to longer-burning fires and less efficient vehicles. I thought the EPA was all about reducing greenhouse emissions and working to reduce our carbon footprint? Or are they too busy writing ridiculous regulations aimed at putting ranchers out of business?

The Oklahoma Farm News Update also reports that local firefighting crews are the first on the scene for more than 75% of all wildfires. The loss of this kind of response could literally mean the difference between life and death in rural communities. However, EPA apparently feels it’s better to spend money on things like regulating dust in fields or mud puddles in my driveway.

You can read more about the proposal and how it will impact small communities here.

In my neighborhood this spring, rural firefighting-teams have twice responded to barn fires within miles of my house, with the larger units from town being the last to show up. In western South Dakota, rural firefighting teams are critical to protecting the Black Hills and the ranchers and rural residents who live in those areas. Without them, the results of wildfires could be deadly.

Even last year, when my parents burnt down an old barn, we relied on the assistance of local firefighters. Elective fires are part of the ranching business, too, and big city firefighting teams don’t have the time to assist in these burnings, either. This is just another example of how rural America will be impacted if this goes through.

What is the EPA thinking? How might this agreement impact your community? Are wildfires an issue in your area? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of or the Penton Farm Progress Group.


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Discuss this Blog Entry 16

Kevin in WI (not verified)
on Jul 7, 2014

If you like your healthcare you can keep your healthcare...

LK (not verified)
on Jul 7, 2014

The fact that we already are releying on city based firefighter is already not a good situation. I had a fire in a grain bin dryer and the was no one, and I mean know one! had any idea how to put it out Not the fire deptartment not my insurance company. We had to do it our selves with the help of friends and borrowed equipment. City based fire fighters may have the experience on a house fire but there is more to fighting a fire than just holding on to the hose. I have been after my local fire department to get up to speed on Ag related rescue and situations that occur on farms and it has fallen on deaf ears! With poisonous gas in manure pit's to grain bins that hold thousand's of bushels, ag chemicals in building that could be explosive Do we need to have several fatalities before we can solve a problem? This is another example of an administration that say's it is going to solve every problem for everybody without looking at who will be harmed in the process and once the rules have been changed and something happens blame someone else.
EPA has no business regulating anything because it can't even regulate itself or it's employee's. If you have recently seen the store's with regard to the Epa employee's at a Colorado office needed to be reminded to stop deficating on the floor and in the hallway of an office they occupied, The story stated they were throwing paper towels ito the facilities and pluging them up and I will let you draw your own conclusions about how or what happened next. This is Inhuman, Lazy behaviour and why would anyone take them seriously after a situation like this?
We all need to wise up and leave thing's that work alone you can't solve problems that don't exist just to make yourself feel good!

Kent Hanawalt (not verified)
on Jul 7, 2014

I love your column, Amanda, and have many times been a part of the response of ranchers to local fires.

Please tell us all what we can do to respond to THIS fire in an effective manner.

Ken (not verified)
on Jul 7, 2014

I am wondering if this is one of those "money saving?" plans the government comes up with. They usually seem to do the wrong thing while I think they believe they are saving money. They need to check things out better and not generate decisions from way above the people. These comments should be sent to some real decision maker at the EPA.

James Foraker (not verified)
on Jul 7, 2014

I'm a volunteer firefighter and retired military, if the EPA doesn't stop killing this country your have to call the Chinese fire department to put your fires out.

janetk (not verified)
on Jul 7, 2014

We are in a rural area or was in a rural area keeps building up around here. We have a farm 5 miles from where we live and our daughter lives there and there is houses all around the farm, there is a busybody that calls officials for anything including the epa when they see smoke, people burn their garbage but according to the epa you can't burn anything but unglossy paper. Once they were called out and we received a letter saying they couldn't find any evidence of burning. I think government just wants to run farmers out of business. It sure isn't for the people, by the people. Control the people. Even though you are suppose to be able to burn farm related stuff you will have epa there looking for something to get you with.

John R. Dykers, Jr (not verified)
on Jul 7, 2014

there are two kinds of bureaucrats; obstructors and facilitators. Sounds like we found some more obstructive ones.

Douglas Gall (not verified)
on Jul 8, 2014

The Missouri Department of Conservation gets millions of dollars worth of Federal Excess Property annually to outfit and equip the rural fire departments in Missouri. If not for this equipment, some fire departments would not even exist as it is the only means of equipping some of these departments. Rural departments are instrumental in assisting the MDC with wild land fire suppression. They are also the primary responders for structural fires, accidents, search and rescue, and medical assists in the rural areas of the state. The EPA needs to keep their noses out of peoples business or give up a bunch of their money to outfit these rural departments.

Mike Lake (not verified)
on Jul 8, 2014

Not surprised!

Kevin Zuhlke (not verified)
on Jul 8, 2014

I am mot saying I support the EPA here. These trucks will not operate enough times a year to make much of a difference. But, I would like to comment on your argument against this ruling. It seems to me you are saying without this government handout we wont be able to have a rural fire Departments. I disagree with that statement. I believe rural Americans are and should always be some of the most independent people in America. If we lose a source of cheap govt. vehicles we will simply find another way. In closing I am okay with you stating the ruling is in error because the pollution is such a small amount. But do not make it about Rural Americans needing another government handout.

Douglas Gall (not verified)
on Jul 8, 2014

Do you have any idea of how much it costs to properly outfit a firefighter in personal safety equipment ? Just for the helmet, boots, gloves, bunker coat and pants is around $2500 per person. Add a $2500 air pack to enter hazardous environments (x 2 because you don't want to send someone in alone), $300,000 for a class a pumper to meet NFPA standards, the costs of fuel, insurance, training, etc. and you can see that running a fire department is an expensive item. If we can issue re-utilizable vehicles and equipment it helps save on some of the expenses involved in running a fire department. Not everyone pays memberships to fire associations nor do the taxes collected by districts cover all of the needs of a properly equipped, trained and staffed rural fire department. Also in todays world, no one wants to volunteer to be a member of a fire department. Rural departments do great work but are hampered by lack of personnel, training, funding and equipment and by having to put up with regulations set forth by NFPA, EPA and many other organizations and agencies.

D T-K (not verified)
on Jul 8, 2014

As a lifetime self employed rancher in rural Texas and part time grant writer for many projects, one of my most important subjects is the renovation of these fire trucks for rural fire departments. In my county because of it's size and remoteness, we have 9 rural volunteer fire departments that all have vehicles from the Texas Forest Service and the DOD. At our own cost we have to reinvent, renovate, and maintain these vehicles. I search for that money and write those grants to make it possible to keep rural Texas safe not just for its land owners but safe to be able to provide the food, pasturage, and products for all of the world. That might sound dramatic, but has EPA ever seen a wildfire in Texas and the burning of over 100,000 acres of farm and pasture land, cattle, and wildlife much less buildings and homes? If they ever experienced that kind of fire or saw the results from that kind of fire, maybe then they would truly understand the need and continuation of good equipment for our volunteer departments. My county volunteers train excessively to keep us safe. They spend hours and time to train and maintain their equipment. Three of departments of volunteer fire fighters are designated Strike Teams and travel all over Texas when and where they are needed. Those trucks are what help make them the firefighters they are. They don't do this for any pay or any glory...they do this to protect Texas and the people they love. The least we can do is help provide them with reliable equipment!

David Bryan EPA Region 7 (not verified)
on Jul 11, 2014

This has been worked out between EPA and DLA with a temporary exemption and working on a permanent fix.

on Jul 12, 2014

As a 20 year third generation volunteer firefighter, and fourth generation cattle producer, I know how important it is to have the equipment to save every bit of forage possible. Not to mention the homes and outbuildings that are part of our livelihood. Without our Forest Service supplied grass rigs we could not have done half the job we did on the Sioux/Dawes Complex fires, Cottonwood fire, and Region 23 complex fires in 2006 and 2012. Our dept currently has use of two 6x6 rigs.

maxine jones (not verified)
on Jul 14, 2014

Like too many govt. attempts to help or manage problems, this one has more twists than a snake! Plus other similarities, it seems! We know of volunteer rural fire departments where they were offered, and nearly forced to take more trucks than they had personnel to handle, We also see pretty lavish, apparent overkill in rigs in some places, too, but maybe they are needed. We in rural western SD did do pretty well with our locally funded volunteer rural departments BEFORE Homeland Security and EPA got involved, though.

on Jul 21, 2014

Whenever someone complains to me about our trucks being too "lavish", I tell them they can feel free to take my place on the fire department and "make do". Where I live, many people are too busy to volunteer for our fire department, but never too busy to come watch us fight the fire and tell us what we do wrong.

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BEEF Daily Blog is produced by rancher Amanda Radke, one of the U.S. beef industry’s top social media “agvocates.”


Amanda Radke

Amanda Radke is a fifth generation rancher from Mitchell, S.D., who has dedicated her career to serving as a voice for the nation’s beef producers. A 2009 graduate of South Dakota State...

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