Rural Fire Show Provides Equipment, Networking Opportunities

Firefighters from across the state gathered at the 20th Annual Rural Fire Protection (RFP) Fire Show to network and collect supplies.

Hosted by the Arkansas Forestry Commission, the event honors fire crews for their partnership in the suppression and prevention of wildfires and other services. The event, held at the RFP headquarters in Greenbrier, was free to all attendees.

Bismark Volunteer Fire Chief Duke Evans said the annual event provides opportunities for rural fire departments to learn of new technologies and equipment in the fire industry.

Evans said the fire expo provides networking opportunities within the state’s rural fire departments they wouldn’t normally have.

“Overall, this is a heck of a deal,” he said Saturday. “It’s a good way to get some camaraderie with all your firefighters.”

Arkansas Forestry Commission Director Joe Fox said the expo focuses on networking the state’s fire departments and providing a source for them to learn of new technologies and equipment to help better serve the communities each department protects.

“It’s a ‘thank you’ and a time for mainly volunteer and rural fire departments in Arkansas to come and network together, get a good meal, but also for 40 some odd vendors to get a chance to show them something new and teach them about new products and technology,” he said.

The 2017 RFP Fire Show provided a BBQ lunch to attendees along with its networking opportunities.

Attendees were given the chance to meet Kathryn Mahan-Hooten, the new administrator of the Rural Fire Program. Mahan-Hooten previously worked with the Arkansas Federal Surplus Property Program and served as a volunteer firefighter and first responder for more than a decade.

The RFP works with in coordination with the U.S. Fire Service and the Department of Defense to convert freightliner trucks into water tankards for rural fire departments.

Since 1979, the RFP has worked to provide equipment, training and support to Arkansas fire departments and remains one of the top programs of its kind in the U.S. for the amount and value of federal surplus property screened and placed with fire departments. In 2016, the RFP provided 72 firefighting vehicles, valued at $7,903,497.60. Over $155,000 was financed through the RFP in interest-free loans for firefighting equipment, and 62 communities received wildland fire suppression kits totaling $186,000.

Fox said the Forestry Commission helps provide these converted tankards to rural fire departments by providing interest-free loans over a three-year period to pay for the conversion costs.

“Now, they do have to pay for the conversion and the tank,” he said. “We have an interest-free loan program that they can borrow up to $15,000 to pay back within three years.”

During the expo, departments can pick up miscellaneous items ranging from lights, generators, axes, absorbent sheets, flashlights and other items at no cost.

“It gives you the opportunity to pick up equipment that you normally wouldn’t be getting,” Evans said. “The things they do for us here [are] a great benefit [to volunteer departments]. We get to meet new vendors that are coming in and see things we might not see somewhere else.”

Russell Burroughs with Arkansas Drone Solutions was among vendors present at Saturday’s expo.

He said drones can help police and fire services in multiple ways for better coordinated responses under certain circumstances.

One of the drones featured at his both was a DJI Matrice 210 Industrial Drone.

The drone has the capability to detect body heat with its thermal camera.

Burroughs said this model could be beneficial in a missing person search along with other search and rescue procedures.

“If a child was missing and you couldn’t see them, say they were in the tall grass, the camera would see them, whereas someone might walk right by them [during a search],” he said.

Authorities could also use the drone to determine how to best send responders into homes.

“Police can use [drones] to assess a situation before they send men in,” Burroughs said. “If it’s a volatile situation, they can fly up and see if someone has barricaded themselves in a house. They could see the situation and know how to handle it before they ever put someone in harm’s way.”

Burroughs said this technology also can be used in the fire service.

“A lot of fire departments are starting to use them,” he said “If you have a grass fire that’s spread, you can fly over it and see how far it’s spread before you send your guys out to fight the fire.” [Click for More]