USA: Department of Interior Agencies Prepare to Release $10 Million to Rural Fire Departments
20 February 2001
Four agencies of the Department of the Interior (DOI) soon will distribute $10 million to rural fire departments.
The money was allocated by Congress to the DOI fire agencies — Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs and Fish and Wildlife Service — in the 2001 Appropriations Bill and is intended “to enhance the fire protection capability of rural fire districts.”
“The money from Congress will be divided among the agencies, and the agencies will distribute the money to their local offices,” said Bill Casey, the Bureau of Land Management lead for rural firefighting assistance. “The field offices, working with local partners, will develop a process to disburse the money.”
Rod Bloms, of the Fish and Wildlife Service, said that rural fire departments interested in obtaining a share of the funds should get in touch with the closest office of the four DOI agencies involved in the program. Funding priorities will be developed by the local office, in consultation with cooperators and local departments.
The funds will be used for training, equipment and fire prevention work.
“The money will help the rural fire departments to enhance their capability for the kind of work they do everyday,” Bloms said.
To participate in the program, rural fire departments must meet several eligibility requirements:
They must have a statewide agreement with the state forester who maintains cooperative agreements with the rural fire departments or volunteer fire departments; or, absent that, a cooperative fire agreement with an agency in the DOI.
The rural fire department must serve a community with a population of less than 10,000.
Funding can only be used for training, equipment and prevention activities.
The local department must have the capability to share a minimum of 10 percent of the total cost. In-kind services may be included as part of the cost sharing.
The local department must serve a community in the “wildland-urban interface,” which is where development occurs near federal land that is vulnerable to wildfire.
A ceiling of $20,000 in assistance per rural fire department has been set by Interior Department agencies.
The Forest Service, in the Department of Agriculture, has a longstanding, similar program to assist rural fire departments called the Volunteer Fire Assistance Program.
The assistance to rural fire departments is part of a larger national fire plan to reduce wildfire risks in communities in the wildland urban interface. It is a pilot program and Congress has left open the option to allocate further funding to rural fire departments in the future.