July 25, 2013

VFA Grant Helps Gorin Fire Department Add New Vehicle

Edwin Herr, past president of the Gorin Fire Department Board of Directors receives a $3,000 check from Chris Sevits of the Missouri Department of Conservation Forestry Division. The funds were made available through the Volunteer Fire Assistance Program.

Wildfires have captured national headlines with devastating results in Arizona and Colorado this summer. The Missouri Department of Conservation is doing its part to keep the Show-Me State from claiming similar notoriety.

During July and August, matching funds grant checks have been delivered to rural fire departments by MDC Forestry Division staff. A total of 182 fire departments are receiving checks of up to $4,000 in value to help with the purchase of personal fire protective gear and other firefighting equipment to help battle wildfires as well as other fire suppression efforts.

On July 17th, the Gorin Fire Department received a check for $3,000 to fund a portion of the purchase of a vehicle through the Federal Excess Personal Property (FEPP) program. The total cost to add the wildfire fighting vehicle was $7,928.

The FEPP program refers to Forest Service-owned property that is loaned or released to State Foresters for the purpose of wildland and rural firefighting. Most of the property originally belonged to the Department of Defense (DoD). Once acquired by the Forest Service, it is loaned or sold to state cooperators, such as the Gorin Fire Department, for firefighting purposes.

Approximately 70% of the property involved in the Forest Service FEPP program is sub-loaned to local fire departments.

More than 1.5 billion acres in the United States are privately owned or owned by state and local governments. Basic fire protection on these lands is the responsibility of State and local entities.

Rural firefighting resources are often the first line of defense in meeting expanded protection needs for wildland-urban interface fires. Of the more than 35,000 local fire agencies nationwide, 75% are volunteer. They provide nearly 80% of initial attack on wildland fires in the United States. These departments provide, at no cost, wildfire and emergency protection service to 43% of the population, at an estimated value of $36 billion per year. The Forest Service has programs to help these crucial volunteers through their State Foresters.

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 State Foresters and other appropriate officials to organize, train and equip fire departments in rural areas and rural communities to suppress fires. A rural community is defined as having 10,000 or less population. This 10,000 population limit for participation in the VFA Program facilitates distribution of available VFA funding to the most needy fire departments.

Every year, Missouri fire departments serving communities of less than 10,000 can apply for a 50-percent funding opportunity to help buy fire-fighting equipment. This equipment must also be suitable for controlling wildfires. Winning applicants receive reimbursement for up to one-half of the equipment's purchase price, with a maximum reimbursement of $4,000. Available funding, which is provided by the U.S. Forest Service and MDC, exceeds $300,000 annually.

The total funding awarded to Missouri Fire departments in 2013 through the program was $354,467. Over the past 30 years, the VFA program has allocated more than $7 million for rural fire departments across the state to help increase the safety of their firefighters and provide them with better firefighting equipment to serve their communities.

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