Wednesday, July 9, 2014
OKLAHOMA CITY – In a letter to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Governor Mary Fallin today criticized the agency for discontinuing a longstanding program allowing Oklahoma’s rural fire departments to repurpose surplus military equipment into fire engines and water tenders.
Oklahoma’s rural fire departments are using nearly 9,000 military surplus vehicles and pieces of equipment, valued at more than $150 million, acquired through the Federal Excess Personal Property (FEPP) and the Firefighter Property Program (FPP).
The EPA and the Pentagon recently discontinued the practice of providing surplus military equipment to rural fire departments, citing the carbon emissions of the vehicles. Fallin said the decision to gut the program for environmental reasons jeopardizes the effectiveness of Oklahoma’s firefighting efforts. In her letter, she asked the EPA to reverse course and once again offer surplus equipment to rural fire departments.
Fallin said the decision to end the surplus equipment program was devastating for rural fire departments and could put the lives and property of Oklahomans in danger.
“Surplus military equipment has been essential to supporting the efforts of local fire departments, which are the first responders in 75% of all wildfires,” said Fallin. “The decision to terminate this successful program was clearly made without thought to the adverse effects to local firefighting efforts and the ability to protect the lives and property of our citizens,” said Fallin.
In her letter, Fallin wrote that the decision also ran counter to the EPA’s stated goal of protecting the environment and reducing emissions.
“Wildfires themselves are environmentally destructive events that produce carbon emissions and other toxins,” Fallin wrote. “The EPA’s decision to hamstring fire departments seeking to control those fires is counterproductive to its own environmental goals.”
Since 2004, at least 80 Oklahomans have been killed or injured by wildfires and more than 300,000 acres have burned, destroying more than 800 homes.
“I fear those numbers will grow as the EPA reduces the ability of local departments to effectively respond to fires,” Fallin wrote.
Addressing EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, Fallin wrote, “I am therefore requesting you immediately reverse course and once again allow Oklahoma’s rural fire departments access to surplus military equipment that will otherwise go unused.”