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Program That Helps Small Fire Departments Axed

FAIR GROVE, Mo.-- Fire departments that rely on equipment from a federal program will do without, and so will the people whose homes and lives they protect.
FAIR GROVE, Mo.-- A federal program that provides previously-used heavy equipment to local fire departments has gotten the ax.  Now, smaller departments that rely on this equipment to survive will do without, and so will the people whose homes and lives they protect.  

The Fair Grove fire department is made up of a combination of full-time firefighters and volunteers.  The fires they fight are no less hot and no less dangerous.

"It's life saving on a daily basis for us," Chief Mark Raymond said.

For years, Raymond's department, like other smaller departments, has benefited from the Federal Excess Personal Property Program.  Old military vehicles were given to small fire departments, free of charge.

The program recently ended, because the vehicles do not meet new Environmental Protection Agency emissions regulations.  

"We have 18 vehicles in our fleet right now, and nine of them are from the conservation program," Raymond said.  "For us, it's about the only way we can really do what we do most of time, because we can't afford to buy new trucks all of the time and update our fleet without using them."

Fair Grove received a new super tanker just weeks ago.  Raymond is not sure if the department will ever get another.  He estimated that if his department had to pay for those vehicles, the cost would be around $300,000.

"As these trucks get older, and they start to deteriorate and we have to have them replaced, I don't know in the budget, what we're going to be able to find to replace these trucks," Raymond said.

The chief hopes someone can find an alternative. 

"They (federal government) need to look at something to figure out some way of making this work, because we're not the only ones in the area that depend on these vehicles.  Every department around here has vehicles from them," Raymond said.  "It needs to be weighed.  Life saving versus environmental issues.  If they could find a way to retrofit them (the vehicles), that would be great."
There is some hope among firefighters that Congress can intervene, and make exceptions.
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