Fire departments lose access to cheap military vehicles over emissions rule

The Norman Transcript, Okla.

OKLAHOMA CITY — Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner John D. Doak says rural fire departments in Oklahoma will be devastated by an agreement between the Department of Defense and the Environmental Protection Agency to no longer allow unused DoD vehicles to be retrofitted and used by rural fire departments.

"This will have a major impact on Oklahoma's rural fire departments," Doak said. "Many are already on extremely tight budgets and struggling to get all the equipment they need. They don't have the money to buy new or even used vehicles in many cases. Without access to these DoD vehicles and other equipment, many Oklahoma fire departments will find it difficult to operate."

Through two long-standing federal excess property programs, Oklahoma Forestry Services has provided rural fire departments military trucks remanufactured into wildland engines and water tenders at no cost.

Currently, Oklahoma fire departments are using 8,812 vehicles and pieces of equipment from the DoD valued at more than $150 million. DoD recently ended the program when it decided to enforce a 25-year-old agreement with the EPA. Under the agreement, vehicles not meeting EPA emission standards would be destroyed instead of sold.

"This ill-conceived plan will put Oklahoma lives and property in danger," Doak said. "I know Oklahoma Forestry Services is working with other state officials to find a solution, and they have my full support. I will personally be talking with the state's congressional delegation about this issue that is so important to rural Oklahoma."

The Oklahoma Insurance Department (OID), through its Insurance Services Office review program, works with rural fire districts across the state to improve Public Protection Classification ratings, which can reduce homeowners' insurance premiums.

The Oklahoma Firefighters Pension and Retirement System is funded, in part, by the state's insurance premium tax. Commissioner Doak designates one individual to serve on the pension plan's board of trustees. OID Chief Actuary Frank Stone is presently in that position.

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(c)2014 The Norman Transcript (Norman, Okla.)

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