Tribune-Review, Greensburg, Pa.
Aug. 18—Some Westmoreland County volunteer fire departments recently awarded grants aimed at helping small communities obtain and replace equipment to battle wildfires said the funding couldn’t have come at a better time.
“I can tell you, we’ve already had a busy wildfire season. These grants are really helpful because I’d rather spend our firefighters’ available time in fire training than selling hoagies to pay for this equipment,” said Trafford Fire Chief Brian Lindbloom.
Gov. Tom Wolf announced this week some 109 volunteer departments statewide were awarded $602,306 in grants to help communities increase protection from wildfires.
The grants were awarded to qualifying local firefighting forces in rural areas and communities with fewer than 10,000 people. The grant program, administered through the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and paid through federal grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service, has awarded more than $14.5 million since it began in 1982.
Lindbloom said the Trafford department received about $3,600 that went for hoses, nozzles and general refurbishing and upgrading fire department gear.
“Some of our gear is over a decade old and this money definitely helps us replace what’s been damaged or worn out over the years,” Lindbloom said.
Fairfield Township Fire Chief Kevin Stiffler said his department, which received a maximum $10,000 grant, purchased a new “skid unit” for use with a new Utility Terrain Vehicle that is used for fighting brush and wildfires.
Stiffler said the skid unit can help with patient rescues and also is used for fire suppression and supplements its “old” 1985 brush truck that still is in service and used for fighting wildfires.
“We certainly appreciate the funding,” Stiffler said.
The funding may be used for training and equipment purchases directly related to fighting brush and forest fires, Wolf said.
“These grants will allow our first responders to prepare for and, if needed, douse dangerous wildfires so that our communities remain safe,” Wolf said in a news release.
“As Pennsylvania heads into its wildfire season, there’s no better time to focus on getting our first responders the resources they need,” added state Fire Commissioner Bruce Trego.
“Grant programs like these are vital lifelines for our departments to procure the needed equipment and training for professional, coordinated and safe response efforts,” he said.
Grants are awarded on a cost-share basis. The maximum grant awarded in 2021 is $10,000 and cannot exceed 50% of the actual expenditures of local, public, and private nonprofit organizations in the agreement.
Upper Burrell Volunteer Fire Department also received a maximum grant of $10,000. Attempts to reach officials with that department were unsuccessful.
Also in Westmoreland County, South Huntingdon Volunteer Fire Department received a grant of $2,310.
In Allegheny County, Frazier Volunteer Fire Department received $1,631 and Gallatin Sunnyside, $2,500.
In Armstrong County, Parks Township Volunteer Fire Department received $2,500 and Worthington, $10,000.
In Butler County, Connoquenessing Volunteer Fire Department was awarded $9,850 and Prospect, $5,000.
In Fayette County, Farmington Volunteer Fire Department received $10,000; Morrell, $2,100 and Markleysburg, $6250.
In 2020, more than $591,000 was awarded to 109 volunteer fire companies.
Paul Peirce is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Paul at 724-850-2860, firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter .
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