Monday, October 16, 2023

DCNR Awards Grants to 4 Schuylkill County Fire Companies to Enhance Wildfire Protection

On Monday, DCNR announced the allocation of funds by awarding grants to 4 Schuylkill County volunteer fire companies.
DCNR Secretary, Cindy Adams Dunn, emphasized the importance of well-equipped and highly trained wildfire fighters as the linchpin for safeguarding Pennsylvania's forests and wilderness areas from both human-caused and naturally occurring wildfires. Secretary Dunn stated, "The best way we can show our gratitude to those who help fight brush and forest fires across the commonwealth is to practice fire safety in all situations, especially in October and November when wildfires are most common in Pennsylvania."

The announcement was met with appreciation from both Secretary Dunn and State Fire Commissioner Thomas Cook towards the volunteer fire companies, acknowledging their invaluable service to communities close to home and beyond. Many members of these volunteer fire companies often join DCNR's Bureau of Forestry crews to battle wildfires in other states, particularly the western states affected by hot and dry summer conditions.

While these crews tackle wildfires across the nation, they also respond to local woodland and brush fires. The recently awarded wildfire grants are aimed at enabling smaller fire companies to focus more on public safety and training, thereby alleviating their financial constraints.

State Fire Commissioner Thomas Cook noted, "Each year, a variety of factors like drying vegetation, fewer natural windbreaks, and scarce rainfall come together to compound fire risks during wildfire season. Grant programs like these are essential financial pipelines, providing firefighters with the mission-critical training, equipment, and supplies needed to safely and successfully complete their missions."

The grants are provided on a cost-share basis, with the maximum grant awarded in 2023 being $12,500. The grants cannot exceed 50 percent of the actual expenditures of local, public, and private nonprofit organizations under the agreement.

Among the grant recipients from Schuylkill County are:
  • Cumbola - Good Will Hose Company, awarded $2,000
  • Hegins - Hegins Valley Fire Rescue, awarded $5,613
  • West Mahanoy Township - Heights Fire Company, awarded the maximum grant of $12,500
  • Tower City - Volunteer Fire Company, awarded $1,987
The primary focus for the grant allocation was on projects related to the purchase of wildfire suppression equipment and protective clothing. These funds can also be used to acquire mobile or portable radios, install dry hydrants, support wildfire prevention and mitigation efforts, and provide training for wildfire fighters, along with converting and maintaining federal excess vehicles. The latter is assigned to local departments with the greatest needs, provided they commit to outfitting them for fire suppression.

In 2022, a total of more than $762,000 was distributed to 122 volunteer fire companies across the state. This grant program, administered by DCNR and funded through federal grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service, has been a critical financial lifeline since its inception in 1982, awarding nearly $16 million in grants to date.