Rural fire departments in jeopardy

Published On: Aug 06 2014 05:18:12 AM CDT   Updated On: Jul 03 2014 10:13:01 PM CDT

Small town Kansas fire chiefs say it could force their departments to shut down. A federal rule that is cutting off the supply of trucks for the departments may leave them no option.

"Just because some bureaucrat who pushed a pencil a little bit and thought it was a good idea don't make it a good idea," says Leon fire chief John Mellies.

FactFinder 12 Investigators learned of the issue after a call from the fire chief in Holyrood, Kansas.

Other fire chiefs are also speaking out.

"It will put us out of business," says Rosalia chief Dean Bender.

Rural fire departments buy many of their trucks through a military surplus option. Trucks that normally cost up to $100,000 or more are sold for as little as $5,000.  Others are provided on loan through the forest service. Many rural fire departments have just enough budget for basic operations.

But the trucks are built for military use and don't meet EPA emission standards.

"Let's apply a little common sense and think about this a minute," says Mellies.

According to an email sent to Kansas fire chiefs, the USDA Forest Service, which oversees both of these programs, has made contact with EPA and the military but was told they do not plan to change the policy.

Now rural departments are reaching out to congress.

"Help us out...that's about all I can say. We need this," says Bender.

Eyewitness News talked to Senator Jerry Moran's office Thursday.  It has received letters from several Kansas fire chiefs and says it's working with members of the Kansas delegation including Senator Pat Roberts to address the issue.  Moran's office says it will have an update next week.