Fire crews often buy goods locally

Fire crews often buy goods locally

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There are a few ways local businesses can obtain a share of fire-related money.

Linda Gibbs has experience with fire purchases and explained how the system works. Gibbs is financial officer for the Custer National Forest and also serves as a finance section chief on a Type 2, or regional, fire management team.

One way to benefit is by simply being there. When a fire camp is set up, crews need all sorts of things - from drinking water to laundry services to copying machines and telephone lines.

"If we have to purchase water and Gatorade, we might as well get it from them (local merchants) as bigger communities," Gibbs said. "Most merchants are more than agreeable and happy to provide and work with us."

Usually a local merchant signs a blanket purchase agreement with an agency's procurement section. Then a buying team from the fire camp, people with authority to make purchases, will pick up what the camp needs. In the case of the local forest, the business would send the bill to the Custer National Forest Supervisor's office in Billings.

"They give us a bill and we pay them on their invoice," Gibbs said.

Another way is to set up an agreement with the local land agency, such as the Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management or the state Department of Natural Resources and Conservation.

On occasion, because agreements are in place, goods don't come from the closest business but the nearest business with an agreement. For example, Gibbs said the portable toilets used on the Cathedral Peak fire near Nye came from Lander, Wyo.

Gibbs said preseason agreements with the forest are usually negotiated during the winter. Business representatives notify the forest of what type of equipment or service is available, from water tenders to lunches, and if the business can meet specifications and other requirements, the forest can set up an emergency equipment rental agreement. Then, when the equipment is needed during fire season, prices and other specifics are already in place.

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