Pennsylvania Funding for Volunteer Fire Companies to Increase Protection from Wildfires in Rural Areas

Pennsylvania Governor Wolf’s Administration announced that funding is now available to help Pennsylvania’s rural communities increase protection from wildfires.

“Weather can be friend or foe in our wildfire prevention and suppression efforts, but DCNR has no stronger ally — especially during these most difficult times of the pandemic — than the men and women of the volunteer fire companies serving rural areas and communities where forest and brush fires are common,” said Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn. “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.”

Fire Commissioner Bruce Trego praised volunteer fire companies’ service to communities close to home, as well as those members who often join DCNR’s Bureau of Forestry crews battling wildfires far beyond Pennsylvania’s borders.

“Wildfires continue to pose a dangerous and growing threat to our state’s forests, economic interests and the communities that live and recreate near them,” Trego said. “Grant programs like these are vital tools for state government to ensure volunteer firefighters get needed equipment and training so they may perform their jobs as professionally and safely as possible.”

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.

Grant applications must be electronically submitted through DCNR’s grant website by 4:00 PM, Thursday, May 13, 2021. To expedite applications and decision-making processes, DCNR is accepting only online applications.

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.

In application reviews, priority will be placed on 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, 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 those 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. The maximum grant that will be considered from any fire company in 2021 is $10,000.

Both Trego and Dunn noted the readiness of volunteer fire companies 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. They noted the wildfire grants help enable smaller companies to concentrate more on public safety and training while easing their fiscal constraints.

In 2020, almost $592,000 was awarded to 109 volunteer fire companies serving rural areas and communities where forest and brush fires are common. The grant program, offered through DCNR and paid through federal grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service, has awarded more than $13 million since it began in 1982.