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Governor’s office offers volunteer fire departments grant aid

Charred trees stand after a recent wildfire in Walker County, near Dora, Ala., Thursday, Oct. 27, 2016. Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley visited the site and warned citizens about the serious drought situation in the state. He joined Interim State Forester Gary Cole and Assistant State Forester Dan Jackson in urging residents to obey the Drought Emergency Declaration, often called a "No Burn Order," that he signed earlier this month. Since October 1, 2016, 987 wildfires have destroyed more than 10,730 acres in Alabama, more than four times the amount that occurred during the same time period in 2015. (Governor's Office, Jamie Martin)

Charred trees stand after a recent wildfire in Walker County, near Dora, Ala., Thursday, Oct. 27, 2016. Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley visited the site and warned citizens about the serious drought situation in the state. He joined Interim State Forester Gary Cole and Assistant State Forester Dan Jackson in urging residents to obey the Drought Emergency Declaration, often called a “No Burn Order,” that he signed earlier this month. Since October 1, 2016, 987 wildfires have destroyed more than 10,730 acres in Alabama, more than four times the amount that occurred during the same time period in 2015. (Governor’s Office, Jamie Martin)

MONTGOMERY – Governor Bentley on Wednesday announced $100,000 is being made available to Volunteer Fire Departments (VFD) in Alabama. The needs based grant program will be awarded to reimburse departments for costs incurred during their response to wildfires across the state starting October 1, 2016. A total of $100,000 is available; however, grants up to $2,500 will be awarded based on financial need and departmental budget structure.

“I really appreciate the dedication and sacrifice of the men and women who worked with their local Volunteer Fire Departments to protect their communities during the state’s extreme drought,” Governor Bentley said. “I have been made aware of some of the expenses the volunteer fire departments incurred battling numerous fires, in such a short period of time, and I am hopeful the $2,500 grant will help them address some of the VFD’s expenses.”

Those VFDs interested in applying for the grant will need to provide information regarding missions completed to support state wildfire response. Each department will also be required to provide documentation on how reimbursable funds were expended, including copies of receipts.  According to the Alabama Forestry Commission (AFC), as of December 2nd, a total of 3,644 wildfires consumed almost 50,000 acres of land in Alabama, with 2,219 of those fires and 29,406 acres occurring since October 1st.

“During the recent drought emergency, volunteer fire departments across the state partnered with our agency’s wildland firefighters to protect the lives and property of Alabama citizens on a daily basis,” Alabama Forestry Commission Interim State Forester Gary Cole said. “Many of these VFDs responded time and again to assist our crews, expending funds in excess of their annual budgets. The Alabama Forestry Commission values this partnership and deeply appreciates their service and sacrifices. We’re pleased that the Governor is providing financial assistance to these deserving men and women.”

The Alabama Emergency Management Agency (AEMA) will work with AFC to manage the VFD Wildfire Response Grant program.

“The State has recently suffered from many fires attributed to the extreme drought and the costs of responding to those fires have financially impacted our volunteer fire departments,” Alabama EMA Director Art Faulkner said. “These grants will help these departments offset additional costs incurred such as fuel, equipment operations and other expenses associated with their tremendous and needed response.”

AEMA will notify the VFDs of the grant opportunity and provide more specifics regarding the application process. VFDs will need to complete and submit their application to their county EMA office by close of business January 5, 2017.