Administrators of rural fire departments are a bit wary of the future, but they are exhaling after the Environmental Protection Agency restored a program allowing the transfer of surplus military equipment for firefighters and law enforcement after a short halt.
Chase County Fire Chief Mark Davis says the ability to buy the surplus equipment at low cost is a lifesaver for his budget.
Hartford Fire Chief Larry Bess says there is constant pressure to reduce federal programs, including grants for equipment, that would help rural firefighters. He doesn't expect that to change.
Federal lawmakers from Kansas and other states pushed to have the program restored.
The program has been around for years, letting fire departments repurpose the surplus vehicles into fire engines and water tenders. However, the vehicles don't meet EPA emissions standards, so the military technically isn't allowed to transfer ownership -- even though the military can use those vehicles. Davis says that issue is a non-starter because the vehicle emissions pale in comparisons to those produced by the fires his crews are fighting.
The new agreement has the vehicle titles in question remaining under Defense Department control. This ensures the vehicles are destroyed at some point.