"More than half a million dollars is being distributed to 141 volunteer fire companies in the state's rural areas and communities, where forest fires are common," said Rendell. "These funds will allow firefighters to concentrate more on public safety and training rather than having to concern themselves with constant fundraising to keep their local stations open."
Local firefighting forces in rural areas or communities with fewer than 10,000 residents qualify for the aid. Last year the grant program awarded more than $494,630 to 177 fire companies across the state.
"The value of these well-equipped and highly trained men and women was demonstrated last spring when dry, windy conditions spawned brush fires in every county," said State Forester Dr. James R. Grace. "These grants are a sound investment in an invaluable service."
Grant recipients were named following review of fire company applications that met a May 2005 deadline. Grants and other assistance are provided through the Department of Conservation's Bureau of Forestry, with funding supplied by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Forest Service through the Cooperative Forestry Assistance Act of 1978.
The key objective is to better equip and train volunteers to save lives and protect property in unprotected or inadequately protected rural areas. Selection of grant recipients is based on vulnerability and adequacy of existing fire protection.
In reviewing applications, the bureau placed priority on applications seeking funds for projects that included the purchase of wildfire-suppression equipment and protective clothing.
Grants also are being awarded for mobile or portable radios; installation of dry hydrants; wildfire prevention and mitigation; wildfire fighting training; and conversion and maintenance of federal excess vehicles received from the bureau and used for fire suppression.