Mountain Home, Idaho, will soon get a free wildland fire engine from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management under a new federal program.
That pleases Fire Chief Mark Moore, whose city department cooperates with the Mountain Home Rural Fire Protection District to fight range fires.
“Having this will enable us to have a more modern brush truck capable of running down the road at safe speeds,” he said. “It also allows us to have more reliability because of the care that has been taken in their lifespan.”
A 2018 law allows BLM to transfer trucks and command vehicles directly to established local cooperators like rangeland fire protection associations and rural departments instead of going through the General Services Administration process.
The change makes it easier for often cash-strapped rural fire organizations to equip themselves.
Moore applied through BLM’s Rural Fire Readiness program to get a Type 4 Heavy engine. BLM approved, and he hopes to take delivery before season’s end.
“We have a fleet of trucks that is aging and increasingly unreliable,” he said. “Of the four we have, only one could be able to sustain speeds on the highway.”
BLM National Cooperator Coordinator Steve Acarregui said that under the old GSA process, rural fire organizations were third in line for surplus equipment behind federal and state agencies.
BLM can now help rangeland associations and rural departments get the equipment they need while greatly reducing the risk of losing a longterm investment.
“Now we can save some of that investment because that vehicle, though we no longer own it, is on BLM land suppressing fire — a win-win,” Acarregui said.
BLM is transferring 35 engines, including 18 in Idaho and 3 in Oregon.
Four Idaho organizations have received them already: Owyhee RFPA, Clark County Rural Fire Department and the Central and Hamer RFDs. The rest are slated to be delivered by next spring.
In Oregon, Nyssa Fire Department and Fields-Andrews RFPA received vehicles. Where the third will go is yet to be determined.
Acarregui said the agency installs about $3,000 worth of equipment such as tools, appliances, and hose reels on each transfer vehicle. Recipients get them on a staggered schedule that varies based on when BLM receives replacements.
“We have good relationships with local cooperators and work with them often,” Acarregui said. “If they respond to one fire and get it caught at 1 or 5 acres as opposed to who knows what, that $30,000 (the salvage value of the truck) was recouped on that one fire. We don’t see it as a handout.”
In Mountain Home, getting the new engine will “improve our overall effectiveness in the suppression of wildland fires on private, state and federal lands, and in the wildland-urban interface, which is becoming big,” Moore said.
BLM’s new ability to transfer equipment “is a benefit for fire departments throughout the state, and is something built through relationships,” he said.