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Oklahoma Rural Fire Departments Feel Burned By Federal Grant Cuts

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COLLINSVILLE, Oklahoma -

Rural fire chiefs are fuming over a recent decision by the government to end a grant program that gives rural fire departments surplus military vehicles.

Insurance officials blame enforcement of EPA emission standards for the end of the program.

But rural fire departments say they depend on the program to keep citizens safe, especially in Oklahoma, where the rural firefighters are often the first line of defense in wildfires that often scorch drought-ridden land.

The Black Dog Rural Fire Department has been the recipient of DOD grant trucks. The fire chief says if this program ends it could be really devastating to all local departments.

"I think if we don't use these trucks it's a complete waste of money," chief Paul Reeves said.

The Oklahoma Insurance Department says the state's rural fire departments use more than 8,000 trucks and related equipment received through the grant program.

The insurance department says military vehicles not meeting EPA emission standards now will be destroyed instead of being offered to the cash-strapped fire departments.

Lawmakers are trying to figure out why the DOD is finally deciding to enforce EPA emissions rules on surplus truck donations for the first time in 25 years.

U.S. Sen.Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) has said he has asked for an explanation.

"I am working to get answers from the Obama Administration and to bring about a quick resolution that supports our rural and volunteer fire departments in Oklahoma," Inhofe said in a statement.

Collinsville Rural Fire Department Chief Jim Wilson said not having any new trucks from the military could put a financial strain on departments.

"Should DOD have something we could have used we have had in the past we just saved $100,000-$130,000 easy," Wilson said.

Reeves said his department was built on DOD grant trucks.

Reporter: "Is it fair to say if you didn't have these DOD trucks your department would have had a hard time becoming what it is today?

Reeves: "Oh, yeah. Definitely. It would have been a nightmare.

"These trucks are a vital important for rural fire departments in Oklahoma to be able to be here for the people when they need us."

Inhofe said he will be working on solving this issue for fire departments when the Senate returns into session on Monday.

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