It looks like the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is at it again – and this time the agency’s actions could endanger the lives of rural Americans, their livelihoods, and the health of the environment. In a new agreement, the EPA wants to stop the Department of Defense (DOD) from allowing use of excess DOD vehicles by rural fire departments to fight wildland fires. I can only imagine how devastating this could be to some communities.
I have several family members who serve on volunteer firefighting crews during wildfire season, and the ability to respond quickly to these fires can spell the difference between saving or losing acres of trees, pastures and homes. Without these rural fire departments, these small communities will have to rely on larger urban firefighting crews, which likely means longer response times.
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According to the Oklahoma Farm News Update, “Through two long-standing federal excess property programs, Federal Excess Personal Property (FEPP) and Firefighter Property program (FPP), state forestry services across the country have been able to assist rural fire departments by providing no-cost military trucks that are then re-manufactured into wildland engines and water tenders through its Rural Fire Assistance Program. Without access to the vehicles and other equipment, many rural fire departments will find it difficult to operate, as commercial trucks are cost-prohibitive for most departments.”
Not only will this limit how effectively rural firefighters can respond to wildfires, but it will be more costly for rural communities. Plus, it likely will mean more air pollution and particulates due to longer-burning fires and less efficient vehicles. I thought the EPA was all about reducing greenhouse emissions and working to reduce our carbon footprint? Or are they too busy writing ridiculous regulations aimed at putting ranchers out of business?
The Oklahoma Farm News Update also reports that local firefighting crews are the first on the scene for more than 75% of all wildfires. The loss of this kind of response could literally mean the difference between life and death in rural communities. However, EPA apparently feels it’s better to spend money on things like regulating dust in fields or mud puddles in my driveway.
In my neighborhood this spring, rural firefighting-teams have twice responded to barn fires within miles of my house, with the larger units from town being the last to show up. In western South Dakota, rural firefighting teams are critical to protecting the Black Hills and the ranchers and rural residents who live in those areas. Without them, the results of wildfires could be deadly.
Even last year, when my parents burnt down an old barn, we relied on the assistance of local firefighters. Elective fires are part of the ranching business, too, and big city firefighting teams don’t have the time to assist in these burnings, either. This is just another example of how rural America will be impacted if this goes through.
What is the EPA thinking? How might this agreement impact your community? Are wildfires an issue in your area? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of Beefmagazine.com or the Penton Farm Progress Group.
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