HARRISBURG, Pa., March 15, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- With the approach of spring and the increased risk of forest and brush fires across the state, the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources today announced federal grants are available to help Pennsylvania's rural communities better guard against the threat of fires in forested, undeveloped and unprotected areas.
"Warming temperatures, sunny days and strong winds quickly usher in wildfire dangers that emphasize the need to have well-trained and well-equipped local firefighting forces in rural areas," said Bureau of Forestry Director Daniel Devlin. "These men and women deserve nothing but the very best training and equipment that these grants help achieve.
"The grant program has awarded more than $8.7 million since it began in 1982, and in 2010, almost $667,000 was awarded to 172 volunteer fire companies serving rural areas and communities where forest and brush fires are common," Devlin said.
The maximum grant request that will be considered from any fire company in 2011 is $7,500. All items approved for purchase under the 2011 grant program must be purchased between Oct. 1, 2010 and Nov. 30, 2011.
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 readiness of these volunteers is demonstrated even further every spring when they answer calls for assistance coming from western states," Devlin noted. "These federal grants allow firefighters from smaller companies to concentrate more on public safety and training rather than having to concern themselves with fundraising and fiscal constraints."
Grants and other assistance are offered annually through DCNR's Bureau of Forestry, with funding supplied by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Forest Service through the Cooperative Forestry Assistance Act of 1978.
"The threat of wildfires continues to loom in our state's 17 million acres of woodlands as development encroaches upon large, forested tracts," said Devlin. "The number of homes and communities in Pennsylvania's wooded and rural areas grows each year, as does the threat of wildfires. We need residents to do their part by following local outdoor burning ordinances and exercising common sense."
The Bureau of Forestry began accepting grant applications Feb. 28. All applications must be received at the Bureau of Forestry's Harrisburg headquarters by 4 p.m. Thursday, May 19.
To expedite the process, the bureau is accepting only online applications. Applicants should visit www.dcnr.state.pa.us; click on "Apply for Grants;" then "Online Grant Applications" and "DCNR Volunteer Fire Assistance."
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 also may be used for purchasing mobile or portable radios, installing dry hydrants, performing 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.
Aid is granted on a cost-share basis. 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.
Media contact: Terry Brady, 717-772-9101
SOURCE Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources