Fire departments get all-terrain engines |

Fire departments get all-terrain engines

Gregory Crofton
Jim Grant/Tahoe Daily Tribune Forest Supervisor Maribeth Gustafson, left, and Fire Management Officer Kit Bailey, right, give the ceremonial keys for two Forest Service engines to fire chiefs John Pang of Meeks Bay and Chris Sauer of Fallen Leaf.

The U.S. Forest Service just saved the Fallen Leaf and Meeks Bay fire departments a whole lot of money and increased fire protection in the Lake Tahoe Basin.

Officials from the Forest Service Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit on Monday gave each of the community fire departments a free wildland engine.

The National Fire Plan, adopted in 2001, supports the donation of surplus fire equipment to local fire districts. The vehicles are small and maneuverable enough to use in backcountry where wildfires often start.

Neither department owned a wildland engine before the donation. Fallen Leaf had three engines designed to protect homes; Meeks Bay had four.

“They drive like four-wheel drives,” said Chris Sauer, fire chief at Fallen Leaf. “They have great ground plants and really good low gears.”

“That’s what everyone is saying – that these things will go anywhere,” said Meeks Bay Fire Chief John Pang.

Last year the Forest Service bought four new engines and that created a surplus of four older engines. The engines going to Fallen Leaf and Meeks Bay were built in 1991 and are valued at $75,000 apiece. The other two trucks will be shipped to the Pacific Islands as part of a U.S. protectorate responsibility, said Dave Marlow, vegetation and fuels manager at the Forest Service.

Fallen Leaf Fire Department will use its engine to replace one built in 1964. It will be used by the nearby Stanford Sierra Camp for transportation.

“This is a major upgrade for us,” Sauer said. “It will allow us much better access and really improves our capabilities.”

Sauer said that buying an engine comparable to the Forest Service engine would have cost the department $150,000. To raise that amount of money would have required a grant or an increase in taxes, he said.

– Gregory Crofton can be reached at (530) 542-8045 or by e-mail at

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