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WNC Air Quality News

Second Grant Awarded to Reduce Fire Engine Emissions

The Western North Carolina Regional Air Quality Agency (WNCRAQA) announces that it was awarded a $12,000 grant through the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources (NC DENR) Mobile Source Emission Reduction Grant Program to reduce diesel emissions from the emergency response fleet in Buncombe County in 2013. 

The WNCRAQA has administered the grant, which involved the installation of five diesel oxidation catalysts (DOCs) on pre-2007 fire engines utilized by the Reems Creek Fire Department.  Fire trucks must idle when responding to a fire because the different types of engines are utilized to pump water, operate ladders, and to pressurize the brakes so that the engines will be ready to respond quickly to another call if necessary.  This means that the vehicles will idle, sometimes for hours, burning fuel and releasing pollution. 

The DOCs have been EPA-verified to reduce particulate matter emissions by 20%, hydrocarbon emissions by 66%, and carbon monoxide emissions by 41%.  DOCs are currently the best retrofit option for fire engines.

This project built on the successful completion of a previous project in 2010, where WNCRAQA partnered with NC DENR, the Buncombe County Fire Marshall’s Office, seven local Fire Departments (City of Asheville, Broad River, Black Mountain, Enka-Candler, Skyland, Swannanoa, and West Buncombe), and the of Land of Sky Regional Council’s Clean Vehicles Coalition to retrofit 20 pre-2007 fire engines with DOCs.  The WNCRAQA’s Citizens Advisory Committee was instrumental in putting this project together.

Older diesel engines contribute significantly to air pollution in North Carolina. The average replacement cycle for a diesel fire engine in Buncombe County is approximately 20 years.  This project is one of the first of its kind to address diesel emissions from emergency response vehicles in the eight state southeastern region. 

In addition to recognizing the local fire departments for voluntarily participating in the project, the publicity efforts are being utilized to help inform other public and private fleet managers about the benefits and potential funding sources available for similar projects that will help improve air quality in our area.  At the request of the US EPA, the WNCRAQA has prepared a case study about the two projects that can be utilized by other organizations.

For more information about the project, please contact Ashley J. Featherstone of the WNCRAQA at (828) 250-6778, or at