PRINEVILLE, Ore. — The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) recently transferred a water tender to the Wheeler County Fire and Rescue Rangeland Fire Protection Association and a wildland fire engine to the Alfalfa Fire District to enhance their wildland firefighting capabilities. The equipment was transferred under BLM’s Rural Fire Readiness (RFR) program, which is designed to provide equipment to local wildland firefighting partners at no cost.
The water tender will be stationed in Wheeler County and rotated seasonally between Fossil and Spray, Oregon. It will be available for 14 trained firefighters to use for wildland fire response across their 500,000-acre district. The engine will be stationed in Alfalfa, Oregon, and available for 18 trained firefighters to serve their district which spans 68 square miles.
Rangeland Fire Protection Associations (RFPA) are private, non-profit organizations established to help prevent and suppress fires on unprotected lands – those without federal or state jurisdiction. They represent a collaborative effort among local private landowners, the BLM, and the Oregon Department of Forestry and are essentially “neighbors helping neighbors.”
“Water sources are few and far between in some areas across our district” said Richard Shaffer, Wheeler County Fire Coordinator. “The water tender will allow us to be even more effective in our wildland fire response.”
Cooperative partnerships between the BLM and local and rural fire departments, including RFPAs, are crucial to remote wildfire response on private, state, and federal lands affecting grazing, recreational, wildlife, and other values important to local economies. Through the RFR program, equipment is transferred in a fire-ready state with items like hoses, fittings, tools, and radios.
“This program is a huge asset to small departments across the state and across the country” said Chad LaVallee, Fire Chief with Alfalfa Fire District. “Small districts like ours can be challenged by outdated or non-existent equipment which limits our wildfire response capabilities.”
The BLM will accept requests from local fire departments and RFPAs for available vehicles, equipment, and supplies. As equipment is available, the BLM will transfer excess items to local fire departments and RFPAs during the fall and winter months, prior to the next fire season.
To receive wildland firefighting vehicles, equipment, and supplies through the RFR program, local fire departments and Rangeland Fire Protection Associations must meet a number of requirements including:
• Have an existing cooperative fire response agreement with the BLM;
• Serve a rural community or area;
• Have wildland fire protection responsibilities; and
• Be in close proximity to BLM-administered lands and respond to wildland fires in support of BLM when available and as needed.
More information on the BLM’s RFR program can be found here.
— Bureau of Land Management