Feds back-off rural fire truck cutoff

GEARY COUNTY (KSNT) – Kansas First News has learned that the U.S. military’s Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) has rescinded restrictions on releasing equipment, including military trucks for use by rural Kansas fire departments.

The DLA had told rural departments they would no longer supply surplus military vehicles because they did not meet EPA admission restrictions as applied to civilian use.

Kansas Senator Jerry Moran (R) made the announcement a day afterHE and other members of the Kansas Congressional Delegation sent a letter to the DLA protesting its decision to stop supplying the vehicles.

“We are pleased,” said Moran in a written statement “the administration acted in a timely manner and has decided to continue this successful program of equipment transfers. These vehicles are an important lifeline and safety tool for our rural communities.”

Eric Ward of the Kansas Forest Service, which provides the trucks to many rural departments says there are still several unknowns however.

“it does not specifically mention the Federal Excess Personal Property (FEPP) program, so it is unknown if vehicle transfers through that program can resume. Hopefully the unknowns will be answered soon as well,” says Ward.

As Kansas First News first reported Monday local fire departments protested the EPA ruling saying it would significantly impact their budgets and eliminate a source of fire trucks.

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The trucks are what many small town fire departments in the state use.

“These five ton trucks are good because they can go up these hills and down the ravine,” says Chief Garry Berges, head of Geary County Emergency Services , “and get across mud pits and everything else and not get stuck.”

The state buys them from the military, then gives them to the smaller, rural departments.

Says  Eric Ward, of the Kansas Forest Service, “We’ve been able to get them for no cost and we fix them up, make sure they’re mechanically sound, and then issue them out to fire departments.”

But because they were built for the military, they don’t meet federal emission guidelines for civilian operated trucks.

The EPA had said the departments must either replace the vehicles or upgrade their emission controls.

That’s something the departments say they can’t afford with their small, already tight budgets.

“We’re working with the legislators,” Berges tells Kansas First News, “with the Congress and the Representatives offices to let them know what our problems are here in Kansas.”

The EPA has given the departments one, small out – they can continue using their existing fleets until they wear out. After that they need the upgrades.

A spokesman for US Senator Jerry Moran tells Kansas First News they’re aware of the situation, and plan to start addressing it later this week.

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