According to the Florida Forest Service, the program has saved Brevard County more than $3 million. However, a fight over Environmental Protection Agency emission standards may halt the release of military surplus equipment to fire departments and the Florida Forest Service.
“It’s very concerning,” said Orange City Fire Chief Chris Johnson.
Johnson’s department has a 1993 Army truck that was allocated to the department for use as a brush truck.
The massive six-wheel off road truck was a drab shade of green when it arrived. However, $25,000 in equipment, a roll cage and a new outer paint job upgraded the once military transport truck into a brush truck that the chief says he has taken “just about everywhere.”
Departments like Orange City routinely take advantage of the Federal Excess Personal Property Program, which takes used military equipment and essentially loans it out to small and rural departments.
Johnson estimates if he was forced to buy a similar truck on his own, it would cost him about $175,000
-- one -tenth's of his departments entire budget for the year.
“Unless there is a brush fire, this thing stays right here,” said Johnson pointing to the truck. “But when there is a wildfire, we need it to cut the fire off before it reaches homes.”
Last month, the federal program that distributes the equipment was halted amid concerns that the used military equipment would not meet EPA standards. After an outcry from governors, senators and even Florida Agricultural commissioner Adam Putnam, the program was reinstated temporarily.
For now, used equipment will be available, but critics said if the EPA continues to enforce standards for diesel engines it is only a matter of time before the equipment is once again pulled from circulation.
“We understand their (EPA) concerns, but the fires we fight put out far more smoke than this truck,” said Johnson.