JACKSON HOLE, Wyo. \u2014 The \u2018extra\u2019 penny sales tax known as specific purpose excise tax was intended for something exactly like what the fire department needs: Additional wildland firefighting apparatus.\r\n\r\nThe capital layout for the four wildland firefighting engines is above and beyond anything that could be scrimped, saved, and shaken loose from the annual budget of Jackson Hole Fire\/EMS.\r\n\r\n\u201cWe are funded 45% from the town and 55% from the county,\u201d Fire Chief Brady Hansen explains. \u201cI believe they have done a very good job of trying to fund Fire\/EMS the best they can. We are a fairly expensive operation. It\u2019s not a cheap department to fund and town and county have stretched themselves to make sure we are funded.\u201d\r\n\r\nThe four wildland fire engines are not something the department thought of yesterday. For years they have progressed from a wishlist item to a crucial need. The department has made do with what they have only because they\u2019ve had to. Other priorities were more urgent, like getting the ambulance fleet up to standard and making sure each of the six fire stations are properly equipped.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nBut the time has come. The older engines Fire\/EMS is using now have proven increasingly unreliable. They were old when the department got them and they aren\u2019t getting any younger.\r\n\r\n\u201cWe need to retire this fleet of military surplus engines we\u2019ve been using. Our newest one was refurbished in 1983 and was at least 20 years old then. They\u2019ve served us well but it\u2019s just gotten to a point that we can\u2019t maintain them anymore. Our mechanic can no longer maintain them or get parts for them,\u201d Hansen says.\r\n\r\nThe military surplus models were likely built in the late \u201860s or early \u201870s. They are 5-ton engines with no power steering or power brakes. They are difficult to maneuver and, at this point in their lives, becoming a liability.\r\n\r\n\u201cWe did have a close call this summer with one of them while working the Museum Fire,\u201d Hansen shares. \u201cThe parking brake failed and the truck rolled some 20-25 feet before the firefighter was able to get it stropped. It was just a function of the age of the truck. We need something more dependable.\u201d\r\n\r\nSo, what is a wildland fire engine and why do we need four of them?\r\n\r\nA wildland firefighting engine is smaller than the typical engine dispatched from the local fire station responding to structure fires. Those firetrucks are pretty much tied to the pavement. They can\u2019t go where 4WD wildland firetrucks can go.\r\n\r\nWildland firefighting engines are designed to get to and attack wildland fires where they are\u2014in hilly terrain, on sagebrush-choked plains, and in heavily timbered forests. In wild country like Jackson Hole, where urban-wildland interface is all around us, these engines are essential.\r\n\r\nSmaller fires like the Museum Fire and the Butte Fire, as well as larger events like Little Horse Thief and Green Knoll, have highlighted the need for wildland engines. Chief Hansen notes that JH Fire\/EMS works very closely with partners like the Forest Service and Park Service. Agencies routinely share firefighting apparatus nearly seamlessly, but in today\u2019s world, a municipality like Teton County is expected to have the first line of defense equipment like wildland fire engines.\r\n\r\n\u201cWe work closely with other agencies and our partners and, realistically, no one cares what emblem is on the side of the truck during an emergency,\u201d Hansen says. \u201cBut we have a responsibility to our community members to be ready to protect the Town of Jackson, Wilson, Teton Village, and all the outlying areas throughout the county.\u201d\r\n\r\nFire\/EMS responds to numerous fires every summer season that no one ever hears about: brushfires along the roadside, escaped campfires, and other events that remain mostly off the radar of the general public because they are extinguished quickly.\r\n\r\nAnd conditions are worsening before they are getting better.\r\n\r\n\u201cWe know, nationally, the fire season is getting longer. We are having larger events and more megafires,\u201d Hansen says.\r\n\r\nThe $1.6M SPET ask would allow the department to purchase four wildland firefighting engines for placement at each of the six stations around the county. Two updated wildland firefighting engines have been purchased in recent years. A wildland fire engine in each of the six stations would ensure the valley remains as protected as it can be, according to Hansen.\r\n\r\n\u201cOur goal is to buy some new trucks that will serve the next generation of firefighters. Every community within Teton County will benefit from it,\u201d Hansen says.