Program discontinuation will affect 83 Kansas counties
For more than 40 years, the Kansas Fire Department has transferred military vehicles to local fire departments for use in operations, originally through the Federal Excess Personal Property (FEPP) and/or Firefighter Property (FFP) programs via the Kansas Forest Service (KFS).
The program has helped rural fire departments across Kansas receive trucks, trailers, generators, compressors, water pumps, flood lights and extrication tools that the Kansas Forest Service has refurbished. The program, which is active across the country, mainly involves cargo or other general-purpose trucks -- 1- to 5-ton, all-wheel drive vehicles, which can be converted to fire trucks. currently, there are 442 vehicles spread through 81 Kansas counties, worth close to $23 million in original value.
Out of 105 counties in Kansas, 83 counties currently utilize these trucks. Butler County is included on the list.
The equipment is no longer needed by the federal agency that purchased it originally -- usually the Army. The vehicles are still technically owned by the government and are loaned to the Kansas Forest Service at no cost, and they in turn sub-loan them to the local fire districts, also at no cost.
Many departments rely on these trucks to remain operational. Stopping KFS from acquiring these trucks and parts will affect about 75 percent of Kansas’ counties fire suppression capabilities.
Eric Ward, Excess Property Manager with the Kansas Forest Service Fire advised, “A couple of weeks ago, the DLA “became aware of” a 20 year-old agreement between the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the military’s Tank and Automotive Command (TACOM) which exempt military vehicles from EPA’s emission standards,” Ward continued, “It’s easy to see why a combat vehicle operator should not have to worry about a smog pump failing, or having to wait on an engine to regenerate. However, part of that agreement prohibited the transfer of these vehicles outside the military. As of two weeks ago, DLA has ceased all transfers of vehicles, effective immediately.”
Due to the “pollution” engines in the “M” series of military trucks, they can only be released to agencies involved in the National Security.
It was also announced that the moratorium is being extended to generators, pumps with motors, and parts for military engines.
“The USDA Forest Service, which oversees both of these programs, has made contact with EPA and with TACOM and has been told that they do not plan to change the policy,” Ward stated.
This means that KFS and others can no longer obtain any more M-series truck parts for their engines. With the EPA and/or TACOM unable or unwilling to budget, it appears this will not change without congressional involvement.
“For those vehicles we already have on-hand, we will continue to process them for issue to fire departments. We have enough 5 tons on hand to fulfill existing requests, but not for any new requests. We do not have a supply of other types of trucks...for vehicles in the field, we will support them as best we can, with parts on hand. We will likely not be able to order through military channels,” Ward stated.
He also urged everyone to contact legislators and let them know how important the trucks are to their constituents and their communities.
On Monday Congressman Mike Pompeo told the Times-Gazette, “This is yet another instance of the EPA standing in the way of common sense. Local Kansas fire departments affected by this decision are the first responders to fires that impact people’s homes, their businesses, or even the pipelines that fuel our economy. By cutting firefighters off from the resources they need, EPA is putting too much at risk. I am currently working with my fellow members of Congress to reverse this decision and to get our first responders what they need.”