With the approach of spring and the increased risk of forest and brush fires across the state, the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources has announced federal grants again are available to help Pennsylvania's rural communities better guard against the threat of fires in forested, undeveloped and unprotected areas.
All applications must be electronically submitted via DCNR's eGrant webpage by 4 p.m. May 23.
"Warming temperatures, sunny days and strong winds quickly usher in wildfire dangers that emphasize the value of having well-trained and well-equipped local firefighting forces in rural areas," said DCNR Secretary Richard Allan. "These men and women deserve nothing but the very best training and equipment these grants help achieve."
Last year, more than $540,000 was awarded to 141 volunteer fire companies serving rural areas and communities, Allan said.
Local firefighting forces in rural areas or 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.
The grant program has awarded almost $10 million since it began in 1982.
"The threat of wildfires continues to loom in our state's 17 million acres of woodlands as development encroaches upon large, forested tracts," said Allan. "The number of homes and communities in Pennsylvania's wooded and rural areas grows each year, as does the threat of wildfires. We need citizens to do their part by following local outdoor burning ordinances and exercising common sense in our woodlands."
To expedite application and decision-making processes, the bureau is accepting only online applications. For more information, visit www.dcnr.state.pa.us/forestry/wildfire/vfd/VFAGrantsor call the bureau's Division of Forest Fire Protection at 717-787-2925.
In reviewing applications, the bureau will place priority on those requests seeking funds for projects that include the purchase of wildfire suppression equipment and protective clothing.
Grants, which may be awarded for up to $7,500, also may be used for purchasing mobile or portable radios, installing dry hydrants, wildfire prevention and mitigation work, training wildfire fighters, or converting and maintaining federal excess vehicles. These vehicles are presented to the local departments exhibiting the greatest needs and that commit to outfitting them for fire suppression.