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Hiawatha National Forest’s retired engine donation helps support local fire suppression efforts

A woman in FS uniform and two men stand in front of a green fire engine truck
Hiawatha Forest Supervisor Cid Morgan and KBIC President Chris Schwartz look on as KBIC Director of Fire and Emergency Management, Tom Chosa, sign the final paperwork for the Tribe to take possession of the retired Forest Service Type 6 engine. USDA Forest Service photo.

MICHIGAN Hiawatha National Forest recently completed the process of transferring a fire engine to Keweenaw Bay Indian Community in Baraga, Michigan. The vehicle, which was being replaced through the Forest Service’s normal fleet replacement cycle, now supports KBIC's firefighting operations.

The Type 6 fire engine donation was authorized by the Federal Excess Personal Property program. USDA Forest Service fire equipment is fully depreciated at the end of its life-cycle, which helps make it possible for the agency to provide it free of cost to communities.

Hiawatha National Forest staff hopes the transferred vehicles will benefit local communities for years to come.

“We see this kind of thing as simply being good neighbors, plus it means that even after our vehicles leave our hands, they can continue to provide service to our local customers,” said Hiawatha Forest Supervisor Cid Morgan, who also extended her appreciation to the tribe for its contributions to wildfire suppression.

KBIC Tribal President, Chris Schwartz, who was on hand for receipt of the vehicle, said, "I appreciate working with the USDA Forest Service. Partnerships like this are a win-win for both organizations and the community as a whole."

Tom Chosa, KBIC's director of Fire and Emergency Management, agreed that interagency partnerships are critical.

"This equipment will help us improve fire suppression efforts locally and will allow us to contribute to prescribed burning and wildfire suppression across the Upper Peninsula, the state and nationally," said Chosa.

Cory Henry, a zone fire management officer on Hiawatha National Forests, expressed his appreciation for KBIC's fire program.

"Working together helps us improve the condition of the nation's public lands. The US Forest Service and KBIC have a shared interest in restoring fire as an integral part of natural processes to meet resource management objectives while protecting values at risk: human life, property and resources," he said.

In addition to the FEPP program, the USDA Forest Service can also transfer certain vehicles to communities through a second program.

Hiawatha’s fleet manager, Joe Lenoir, explains the process, “The General Services Administration and state surplus programs allow the Forest Service to establish a fixed price agreement with local municipalities in order to transfer reliable assets at very fair and reasonable prices.”

How does the fixed price agreement work? Instead of a typical auction, the local municipality pre-agrees to the fixed price set by the federal agency selling the vehicle. The municipality then works with the State of Michigan’s Federal Surplus Property Program to set up a credit line and route funding to the federal agency (in this case, the Forest Service). Communities thus acquire vehicles for the amount needed to pay off the remaining balance on a vehicle's original purchase, which ends up being significantly less than the fair market value.

While the process can sometimes be challenging, Lenoir is enthusiastic about the opportunity to be a good neighbor and provide excellent customer service.

“It works best if the local governmental unit is registered with the state authority before beginning the process,” noted Lenoir, “but in the end, it feels great to see a used vehicle go to a local government where it can help them improve their community.”

Group photo in front of green fire engine truck
Members of the USDA Forest Service and Keweenaw Bay Indian Community present for the transfer. From left, Eric Rebitzke (USFS), Mike Peterson (USFS), Collin Burklund (USFS), Forest Paukert (USFS), Cory Henry (USFS), Gary Loonsfoot (KBIC), Cid Morgan (USFS), Chris Schwartz (USFS), Tom Chosa (KBIC), Josh Robinson (KBIC) and Sam Duerksen (USFS). USDA Forest Service photo.