Tester unwinds red tape to benefit Montana firefighters, communities
At Senator’s urging, federal government will continue sending trucks, equipment to rural departments
(U.S. SENATE) – Senator Jon Tester scored a victory this month for Montana firefighters and communities when he successfully worked across party lines to reverse a federal government decision to stop sending surplus firefighting equipment to rural fire departments.
Montana firefighters use two federal initiatives to acquire refurbished fire trucks, tools and other equipment no longer needed by the government. But the Defense Department, citing Environmental Protection Agency regulations, recently halted the transfers.
In response, Tester joined with a bipartisan group of colleagues to pressure the department to reverse course, saying the department’s decision during the peak of wildfire season was particularly problematic.
“We see no justification for government red-tape to stand in the way of helping first responders,” Tester and his colleagues told Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. “Every year, these two programs supply local firefighting agencies with over $150 million in excess equipment. For many small and rural fire departments, it may be the only equipment they can afford.”
Under pressure from Tester and his colleagues, the Defense Department last week rescinded its decision, allowing the transfers to continue.
Montana received nearly $7.5 million worth of equipment in 2012 through the two initiatives, called the Federal Excess Personal Property program and the Firefighter Property Program. Since the initiatives’ inception, Montana counties have received $61 million worth of equipment. Among the recipients have been Granite County, which received a firefighting truck, Ravalli County, which received a rescue truck, and Gallatin County, which received a ladder truck.
A full list of equipment is available upon request.