BATTLE CREEK. Mich. –
When Kansas firefighters respond to a call, many use equipment the state’s foresters acquired through the U.S. Forest Service and Defense Logistics Agency.
Equipping roughly 600 fire departments covering 81,760 square miles can be a challenge. Excess military equipment gathered by DLA Disposition Services helps when repurposed to support firefighting. Equipment can include anything from gear used to feed hungry firefighters in the field to cargo trucks converted into tankers that bring water to the fight. To secure items, the state forest service acts as a coordinator, making requests for desired items through the U.S. Forest Service, which looks to DLA for former military items.
Eric Ward, an assistant fire management officer with the Kansas Forest Service, estimates that at least half of the state’s fire departments have equipment obtained either through the DOD Firefighter Property program via U.S. Forest Service, or through the older Federal Excess Personal Property program, which offers donation items from all federal agencies.
“We’ve been gradually replacing FEPP equipment with FFP items, as departments request replacements for their older FEPP trucks,” Ward said. “Since FFP is a higher screening priority, we get a bigger selection and better quality vehicles and equipment than if we wait for it to hit the FEPP screening cycle.”
Ward’s duties include overseeing preparedness, which includes acquiring equipment from the two programs. He said while there are no official records, it is thought that half of the state’s wildfires are responded to with former federal equipment.
“Most of the wildfires occur in rural areas, of course … and typically the smaller, more rural departments are getting equipment through those programs because they have much more limited budgets than a big urban area,” Ward said.
“When we get trucks … we check them out mechanically, make sure they’re safe and roadworthy, everything works, and such things as glass, mirrors, seats, seatbelts, etc., are all present and intact,” Ward said, adding that the state paints and equips trucks for firefighting.