Ismay Rural Fire District Fire District gets new fire engine from BLM
Story and photos by Mark Jacobsen, Public Affairs Specialist BLM
A new fire engine rolled into the gravel parking lot of the Ismay Rural Fire District, the evening of May 13.
The glossy safety-yellow exterior of the International 7400 gleamed in the sunset and announced its arrival with two, quick honks from the horn much to the delight of the department volunteers. The Ismay crew wasted no time in crawling about—opening hatches, testing sirens, inspecting the array of dials and switches prior to flashing the lights and taking it for a test drive.
The “Type 4” engine was presented by the Bureau of Land Management Miles City Field Office by way of the “2018 Rural Fire Readiness Program.” Last September, the BLM issued a memorandum outlining the program which aims to “increase the safety and effectiveness of the collaborative wildland fire response, and to strategically place excess fire equipment to rural fire departments that will assist the BLM in meeting its mission.”
The BLM updates its engines on a regular basis based on hours of use. Once replaced, these vehicles can be granted to augment fire departments in remote areas --who are often the first on the scene when a wildfire erupts.
There have been previous versions of this program with some sort of discounted payment due the federal government for transferred equipment. However, in this go-around there’s no charge to the recipient.
Examples of excess firefighting equipment that might be given through the “Direct Transfer” authority can include: wildland fire engines, water tenders, dozers, communications equipment, protective clothing and gear, pumps and accessories, hand tools, fire line packs. Other types of serviceable material may be available on a less-frequent basis. Local Cooperators must have adequate safety equipment for their personnel and communications equipment before fire equipment and tools will be awarded.
The 2018 Rural Fire Readiness Program criteria expressly points to fire departments that serve a rural community, have wildland fire responsibilities and are in the vicinity of, or within the wildland urban interface. Rangeland Fire Protection Associations (RFPAs) automatically meet this requirement because they serve a rural geographic area within their response boundaries. Also, the applicant cooperator or fire department must be in close proximity to BLM-administered lands and be an entity on whom the bureau depends on to respond to wildland fires --and also responds in support of the BLM when available, or as needed.
Ismay --a small rural community in northeast Custer County—has been a long-time firefighting ally of the BLM Miles City Field Office and Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation. A dispersed rural ranching community with a population of about 35 people, the area is surrounded by intermixed private, state and BLM-administered lands. The largest population centers are Miles City and Baker, about 60 and 38 miles away, respectively.
The response area is considerable for a department the size of the Ismay Rural Fire District. Their area of responsibility covers 105 square miles or 66,795 acres of grass, sage brush and timber fuel types. In this response area is about 9,600 acres of BLM-administered lands which contain 8,900 acres of general Sage grouse habitat. Including private and state land, there are 62,250 acres of general Sage grouse habitat; 49,015 acres are on privately-owned lands and 4300 are on state of MT lands. Under an agreement, the county responds to the fires on state lands, although wildfires don’t pay much attention to property lines. These details made Ismay an excellent candidate for BLM equipment transfer consideration.
The grant process begins with the BLM Montana/Dakotas State Office fire management program working with local BLM field units to notify local cooperators who meet the Program’s eligibility criteria. Local cooperators are then responsible to complete a Rural Fire Readiness application identifying the needs of their organization
Applications are sent to the BLM State Office where the BLM fire management assembles a panel to prioritize applicants. The overall intent of the panel is to consider applications with the priority of increasing the safety and effectiveness of the collaborative wildland fire response, and to strategically place funding and equipment that will assist the BLM in meeting its fire mission.
Once that is done, each BLM State Office fire management program transmits their Rural Fire Readiness priority list electronically to the BLM Fire Operations- National Wildland Fire Cooperator Coordinator in Boise, Id. The BLM Fire & Aviation Directorate then assembles a panel to review and approve equipment transfers.
Ismay Rural Fire District is a member of the Eastern Montana Fire Alliance, an organized group of county and rural fire departments in Eastern Montana. The BLM and State of MT Department of Natural Resources attend the quarterly meetings of the Eastern Montana Fire Alliance to provide agency updates and information that is relevant to these departments.
“Inter-agency cooperation and mutual support is what allows wildfire protection agencies in Eastern Montana to be successful during any fire season,” said Eastern Montana/Dakotas District Fire Management Officer Eric Lepisto. “The ability to target and directly transfer needed equipment to the departments that we work with will only build upon these successful relationships.”
Interested in learning more about the Rural Fire Readiness Program in Montana and the Dakotas? Go to: https://www.blm.gov/programs/public-safety-and-fire/rural-fire-readiness-program
- Dillon Field Office Helps Restore Westslope Cutthroat Trout in Multiple Southwest Montana streams
- Community Protection Across Ownership Boundaries
- Low-Tech Riverscape Restoration Practices Improve Riparian-Wetland Health
- Mule Deer Foundation improves winter range on BLM lands
- 2020 Field Season AIMs for SOS Success: Fort Belknap Indian Community/BLM/Society for Ecological Restoration Native Seed and Grassland Restoration Program