downey firetruck

The Downey Fire Department has received a fire truck from the Bureau of Land Management. From Left to right in the photo are Wyatt Sorensen (future Downey firefighter), Chuck Sorensen (Chairman of the Downey Fire District Board), Chris Sorensen (Downey Fire District Chief), Kevin Conran (BLM Idaho Falls District Fire Mitigation & Education Specialist) and Joel Gosswiller (BLM Idaho Falls District Fire Management Officer).

The Bureau of Land Management of Idaho Falls has transferred surplus wildland fire engines and equipment to 34 fire programs — including two Rangeland Fire Protection Associations — across East Idaho.

That includes the Downey Fire Department, which received a firetruck.

“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 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 BLM’s new Rural Fire Readiness program, local fire programs that meet certain requirements may receive at no cost wildland fire engines, pumps, hoses, 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 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 Downey Fire Department, Clark County Fire Department, Hamer Fire Department and Central Fire District. 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 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, Idaho National Laboratory’s largest fire in history, this July.

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.