Forest Service employees building fire trucks |

Forest Service employees building fire trucks

The Associated Press

SPARKS, Nev. (AP) – More money for fire-fighting resources has turned the U.S. Forest Service headquarters in Sparks into an assembly line for fire trucks.

About 45 are expected to be put together by summer’s end and sent into service across much of the West.

”It’s going to be nice to get all this stuff out on the road,” said Pat Ward, automotive equipment inspector for Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest, where workers have been piecing together new engines of varying sizes since April.

The number of engines built at the Sparks facility was increased more than sevenfold this year through the $1.8 billion National Fire Plan approved by Congress last year after a record fire season swept the nation’s forests.

The plan boosted the number of Forest Service firefighters by 3,500 and hired another 1,700 for the Department of Interior. It also provided funding for costly equipment ranging from trucks to helicopters.

An additional $3 million-plus was directed to the Sparks motor pool to fund the construction of new fire engines.

Starting with a cab and chassis, Forest Service workers install all remaining equipment needed for an engine ranging from water tanks and pumps to emergency lights and wiring.

The additional engines are a ”big plus” in the government’s firefighting capabilities, said Mark Dondero, top wildfire officer for Humboldt-Toiyabe.

In the past, Dondero said, the Forest Service often was forced to send most or all of its engines based in a given place to major fires burning elsewhere, leaving few resources behind in event of a new blaze.

”You have a hole that you’ve created,” Dondero said. ”If you have a new start and nothing to put on it right away, you can get another large fire going and that’s the last thing you need.”

Now, even with resources diverted to major fires elsewhere, engines and crews can stay behind to provide initial attack on new fires close to home, Dondero said.

Other new engines are being sent to rural areas that might never have had them before, said Millie Grune, fleet manager for Humboldt-Toiyabe.

”I’m sure that’s a huge help,” Grune said.

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