Forestry Commission adds new equipment to fleet

Darlington/Marlboro Sector Forest Technician Johnnie Iseman shows off his new firefighting equipment during a Touch-A-Truck event at Darlington Raceway. Photo by Melissa Rollins

By Melissa Rollins, Editor,

Johnnie Iseman has been working with the South Carolina Forestry Commission for over a decade fighting fires, keeping property, people and homes safe. Now, he’s got new equipment that will not only guarantee he can get to the fires he needs to but will keep him safe in the process.

“The old equipment was 21-years-old and leaked,” Iseman said. “It was a John Deere and it was a good tractor; it still is. They are going to keep it as a spare. The new one is all computerized and air-conditioned.”

Iseman said that the new rig’s system took some time to learn but that having an air-conditioned cab is a relief.

“The old way, we had to change gears and everything else to get it where we needed,” Iseman said. “With this one, you don’t; you just drive with your thumbs. The old equipment was not all environmentally safe. This new cab has a special filter system on it to take out all the smoke and everything so we don’t have to breathe it in.”

Though other states have been adding this equipment to their fleets for a while, Iseman said that they have a hefty price tag on them.
“Other states have already had some of this equipment but the Forestry Commission is buying twelve a year now and spreading them across South Carolina,” Iseman said. “At half a million dollars a clip, that’s a lot of money. I was fortunate enough to get one. And thank goodness, because at 61-years-old it was tough breathing in smoke.”

Iseman said that depending on the time of year, fires can keep him and other forestry workers on the go.

“This kind of equipment is used regularly,” Iseman said. “I got it and within a few weeks it had already been to several fires. Summer, mid-summer, we don’t do a lot. We’ll catch one every once in a while but during that time the grass is green, its lush, and it doesn’t catch fire as easy.

Come fall, all the leaves and pine straw is on the ground and everything is dead and will carry fire.”

Though he enjoys his work with the Forestry Commission, it isn’t his only job. Luckily he said, his bosses understand.

“I put in 30-35 hours a week at IGA and they knew when they hired me that if that bell rings, I have to go,” Iseman said. “I catch at least one fire a week, sometimes more than that. In the fall, we have one almost every day but you don’t hear about all of them.”

During a Touch-A-Truck event earlier this month Iseman had his equipment cleaned up and was showing it off to all the kids eager to climb behind the wheel. He also took the opportunity to remind the kids the importance of education.

“If dispatch pages me, I have to use a map because there is no address in the woods,” he told the kids. “I have to use the latitude and the longitude and find out where I need to go. That is why you have to learn to read maps; that’s why it is important to go to school.”

Author: Stephan Drew

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