IDAHO FALLS — The Bureau of Land Management Idaho Falls District has transferred surplus wildland fire engines and equipment to 34 fire programs— including two Rangeland Fire Protection Associations —across eastern Idaho. The transfers are part of BLM’s effort to respond to rural wildland fires by giving excess equipment and supplies to local fire departments and RFPAs.
Under the BLM’s new Rural Fire Readiness program, local fire programs that meet certain requirements may receive at no cost wildland fire engines, pumps, hose, chainsaws, hand tools and other items the BLM no longer needs.
“We appreciate the assistance of our local fire departments and Rangeland Fire Protection Associations in wildland firefighting in eastern Idaho,” said Joel Gosswiller, BLM Fire Management officer at the Idaho Falls District. “The Rural Fire Readiness program allows us the opportunity to augment their response to wildland fires safely and effectively.”
Thirty-one of the 50 cooperators that Idaho Falls District works with have applied to the RFR program so far, receiving four engines, a hundred Nomex pants, 80 brush coats, three Port-a-Tanks, a half-dozen pumps, 150 tools, 29,000 feet of hose and some additional miscellaneous items.
“A lot of departments are surviving on ingenuity to keep their people equipped,” said Kevin Conran, BLM Fire Mitigation and Education specialist for the Idaho Falls District. “They really appreciate the BLM surplus equipment and give it a second life.”
BLM surplus engines have been transferred to the Clark County Fire Department, Hamer Fire Department, Central Fire District and Downey Fire Department. The Inkom Fire Department will receive an engine later this year. All of these departments rely on volunteers, responding to multiple structure fires, EMS and wildland fire calls.
“The Rural Fire Readiness program helps both the BLM and Downey respond to local wildfires,” said Chris Sorensen, Downey Fire chief. “This engine upgrades the Downey Fire District’s program and we will put it to good use.”
The departments participating in the RFR program have assisted the BLM on several wildland fires over the years, most notably the Grassy Ridge Fire, eastern Idaho’s largest fire in 2018. Hamer and Central used the engines they received to assist in fighting the 122,106-acre Sheep Fire, the Idaho National Laboratory’s largest fire in history, this July.
“We appreciate the Rural Fire Readiness program and how it helps both BLM and Central Fire respond to wildfires,” said Carl Anderson, Central Fire District chief. “It will also enable us to help our adjacent county fire districts. We will be able to send more trucks to assist our neighbors and local associations that we support.”
So far this year, Eastern Idaho Interagency Fire resources have responded to 48 fires that have burned 122,789 acres. The BLM works closely with other federal and state agencies, local fire departments and RFPAs to respond to wildland fires.