Agriculture Commissioner Nicole “Nikki” Fried and the Florida Forest Service today announced that 40 grants had been completed and paid out to volunteer fire departments in counties impacted by Hurricane Michael. The funding comes through the Volunteer Fire Assistance (VFA) Program, a program that provides federal financial, technical, and other assistance to State Foresters to organize, train, and equip fire departments in rural areas to prevent and suppress fires.
“I’m grateful for the cooperative relationships we’ve built and maintained with local fire departments in the Panhandle to protect residents still recovering from Hurricane Michael, as they rebuild their homes, communities, and lives,” said Commissioner Nikki Fried. “We’re proud to provide this funding that will help our heroes in rural fire departments continue protecting and serving for years to come.”
In July 2019, the Florida Forest Service announced that 100% reimbursement was available for counties impacted by Hurricane Michael, which includes Bay, Calhoun, Franklin, Gadsden, Gulf, Holmes, Jackson, Leon, Liberty, Wakulla and Washington Counties. To date, the Florida Forest Service has paid out $664,426 in VFA grant funds, surpassing the goal of infusing $500,000 into the communities to enhance fire protection capability.
“This program helps equip and prepare local fire departments to better respond to the wildfire threat left in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael,” said Erin Albury, State Forester and Director of the Florida Forest Service.
Funding provided through the VFA Grant is distributed to fire departments with the greatest need and can be used for the purchase of wildland and structural personal protective gear, communications equipment, water handling equipment and training. Traditionally, VFA funding covers 50% of eligible purchases.
Volunteer fire departments can download the VFA Federal Funding Application online or by contacting Fire Resource Manager Matt Weinell with the Florida Forest Service at (850) 681-5931. The deadline to apply for 100% reimbursement is April 15, 2020. The VFA grant applications for 50% reimbursement will resume thereafter.
The Florida Forest Service, a division of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, manages more than 1 million acres of state forests and provides forest management assistance on more than 17 million acres of private and community forests. The Florida Forest Service is also responsible for protecting homes, forestland and natural resources from the devastating effects of wildfire on more than 26 million acres.