In recognition of Fire Prevention Week and the service and sacrifice of volunteer firefighters throughout Pennsylvania, new funding of $646,891 was announced by the State to help rural communities guard against the threat of wildfires in the state’s forests and other undeveloped areas.
“Across the state, these funds will benefit 132 volunteer fire companies serving rural areas and communities where forest and brush fires are common,” Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn said. “To appreciate the value of well-equipped and highly trained wildfire fighters, one only has to look outside Pennsylvania to the horrific fires that sometimes plague other states.”
Speaking to community volunteer and Bureau of Forestry firefighters gathered at Lower Swatara Fire Department headquarters, acting state Fire Commissioner Bruce Trego praised their service to communities close to home – and many others far beyond Pennsylvania’s borders.
“The dangers associated with wildfires continue to pose a growing threat to our state’s forests and rural communities,” Trego said. “Grant programs like these are vital tools for state government to ensure volunteer firefighters get the equipment and the training they need to perform their jobs as professionally and safely as possible.”
In 2017, more than $592,000 was awarded to 129 volunteer fire companies. The grant program, offered through DCNR and paid through federal grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service, has awarded more than $12.5 million since it began in 1982.
“The readiness of these men and women is demonstrated every spring and summer when they answer assistance calls coming from other states, while also responding regularly to local woodland and brush fires,” Dunn said. “These grants allow firefighters from smaller companies to concentrate more on public safety and training while easing their fiscal constraints.”
Recently approved grants for Armstrong County fire departments include: Dayton District Volunteer Fire Co., $10,000; Distant Area Volunteer Fire Department, $10,000; Ford Cliff Volunteer Fire Co. Inc., $600; and Kittanning Hose Company No. 6, $3,471.
Local firefighting forces in communities with fewer than 10,000 residents qualify for the aid, which is used for training and equipment purchases directly related to fighting brush and forest fires. Grants may be used for purchasing mobile or portable radios; installing water supply equipment; wildfire prevention and mitigation work; training wildfire fighters; or converting and maintaining federal excess vehicles.
The key objective is to better equip and train volunteers to save lives and protect property in unprotected or inadequately protected rural areas. Grant recipients are selected based on vulnerability and adequacy of existing fire protection.
Aid is granted on a cost-share basis, with recipients supplying matching funds.
Grants for any project during a fiscal year cannot exceed 50 percent of the actual expenditures of local, public and private nonprofit organizations in the agreement.
The maximum grant awarded any fire company in 2018 was $10,000.