Two local VFDs awarded federal wildfire grants

Two local fire departments have been awarded a slice of more the $500,000 in state grant money.

The Russell Volunteer and Sheffield Township Volunteer Fire Departments have been awarded a total of more than $4,000 in U.S. Dept. of Agriculture funds by the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR).

The grants, part of a program that awards rural communities grants of up to $7,500 for the purchase of wildfire suppression equipment, were awarded to 130 volunteer fire companies statewide and totaled $505,000.

Russell Volunteer Fire Department was awarded $3,000 while Sheffield Township Volunteer Fire Department was awarded $1,385.

Warren County Fire Services President Rich Barrett, who wrote the grant for Russell, said Russell will be using the money for hose nozzles and miscellaneous other equipment.

“We’re using it for forest fire suppression equipment,” Barrett noted.

Acting DCNR Secretary Ellen Ferretti said in an Aug. 15 press release, “One only has to look outside Pennsylvania earlier this summer to the horrific fires in Arizona and other states to appreciate the value of well-equipped and highly trained wildfire fighters. The readiness of these men and women is demonstrated every spring and summer when they answer assistance calls coming from other states, while also responding regularly to local woodland and brush fires. These grants allow firefighters from smaller companies to direct more funding toward public safety and training.”

According to Barrett, the grants require a 50 percent match in funds.

“This is the first time we’ve gotten this grant in 20 years that I can think of,” Barrett added.

Representatives of Sheffield Township Volunteer Fire Department did not respond to requests for comment on the grants.