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Volunteer fire departments may not be able to get used military trucks anymore

COMANCHE COUNTY, Okla._Volunteer fire departments across the state could be devastated after an agreement was made between two federal agencies to stop providing surplus military vehicles.

The U.S. Department of Defense and the Environmental Protection Agency is calling for the halt in an effort to reduce emissions. While the intentions are good, many volunteer fire departments are panicking since most of their trucks were obtained through the program at zero cost.

Volunteer fire departments receive vehicles like Paradise Valley’s old Army five ton. Once a war fighting machine, now it's a fire fighting machine. Firefighter officials said they are extremely helpful when fighting rugged, off road, fires.

It takes a few years to even receive fire trucks like this one and Paradise Valley Fire Chief Doug Wright says had it not been for the program, his department may have gone without it.

"I wouldn't have got it if it hadn't have been free. I may have been looking for another big truck that we would have had to pay for out of our own pocket, which would have really put a cramp in our style," explained Chief Wright.

When given to them, these trucks can range from $100,000 to $200,000. But the only tab the fire departments have to pick up is what it costs them to equip the vehicle.

"We would end up in the station at night, modifying them, getting them ready to really fight fire, to meet safety requirements for the firefighter, on or off road," said Chief Dale Winham of the Cache Volunteer Fire Department.

Now these big trucks won't be delivered any more because the EPA says they are bad for the environment, and that their emissions are just too much. Volunteer fire department officials say that the trucks aren't used enough for that to be a real issue.

"This isn't a truck that we are driving everyday. It's not like we are getting out there and polluting the country side with them," said Chief Wright.

But when they are used, officials say they save lives and property because it allows them to go into tough terrain to fight fires. Just like the Wichita Wildlife Refuge Wildfires of 2011.

These trucks mean everything to the brave firefighters that drive them, including Paradise Valley.

"There are fire departments that are in small areas that need them, they really need them, and the truth is, we need them because of the type of terrain that we fight fire in," said Chief Wright.

Officials say these trucks are workhorses. They’re rugged, ferocious fire fighting machines that couldn't be replaced.

"A newer model truck, we would destroy it up there in the boulders and all of that. Where this stuff here, will go right over it," said Chief Wright.

Wright says for the volunteer fire departments that may not have the funds to purchase fire trucks, the recent decision could serve as a huge blow.

"You know, this department 10 or 15 years ago couldn't have existed without those free trucks like that," said Chief Wright.

Forestry services are working with state and federal agencies to make sure these trucks will remain available to the volunteer fire departments that need them.

 

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