With wildland fire season right around the corner, rural departments have another avenue of financial assistance available to them through a competitive grant process.
The Volunteer Fire Assistance Program (VFA), formerly known as the Rural Community Fire Protection (RCFP) Program, can provide federal financial, technical and other assistance to appropriate state officials to organize, train and equip fire departments in rural areas and rural communities to suppress fires.
A rural community is defined as having a population of 10,000 or less. This population limit for participation in the VFA Program facilitates distribution of available VFA funding to the fire departments with the greatest need.
The VFA program was first authorized in 1972. Even though it has undergone a name change and some program additions, the objectives of the program remain the same today as they were when it was initiated. They:
- Provide financial, technical and related assistance to state foresters to organize, train and equip local firefighting forces for fire protection in rural areas and communities of 10,000 persons or less.
- Determine benefits and costs of fire protection of rural lands, and evaluate the distribution of these costs and benefits among all appropriate entities.
- Develop policy and monitor states’ administration of equipment and supplies purchased in whole or in part with Volunteer Fire Assistance Program funds.
- Encourage and assist states in the use of Federal Excess Personal Property in achieving the goals and objectives of the VFA Program.
- Encourage and assist states in use of federal procurement systems and sources of supply to achieve the goals and objectives of the VFA Program.
In implementing these objectives, the VFA program endeavors to:
- Organize, train and equip fire departments in unprotected rural areas and rural communities.
- Assist qualifying fire departments in saving lives and protecting property in unprotected or inadequately protected rural areas.
- Prevent or reduce loss of life, protect financial investments and enhance environmental quality to revitalize rural America.
- Increase the opportunity for rural fire departments to acquire FEPP, training and current information on techniques of fire prevention.
VFA Grand Assistance
Included in the VFA program is the opportunity for small rural fire departments to apply for grant funds to address wildland and rural firefighting needs.
Some examples of funded projects include:
- Wildland fire protective gear.
- The installation of dry hydrants.
- Conversion of federal excess vehicles received from the FEPP.
- Wildland suppression equipment.
- Communication equipment.
- Wildfire mitigation or prevention projects.
Even though it has undergone a name change and some program additions, the objectives of the VFA remain the same today as they were when it was initiated.
Program specifics, including application deadlines vary from state to state. The grants generally require a 50-percent match by the fire department and are limited to $10,000.
Some states may also have restrictions on how a successful department may apply for the program. To learn about the specific program for your state, your best option is to visit the National Association of State Foresters Membership Directory, you will find a complete directory of state forestry agencies. From there, you can e-mail your state forester or locate the phone number for the state headquarters. You may also contact the state VFA manager.