Voluntary Fire Assistance (VFA)
- NOTE: Open March 16, 2020 to April 30, 2020
- Maximum grant $5,000
- The new application can be emailed through the link in the application but a signed hard copy must still be mailed.
- Applications must be postmarked by April 30, 2020
- Awards will be announced in May 2020
- Download Application
The purpose of the Volunteer Fire Assistance (VFA) Program, formerly known as the Rural Community Fire Protection (RCFP) Program, is to provide Federal financial, technical, and other assistance to State foresters and other appropriate officials to organize, train and equip fire departments in rural areas and rural communities to prevent and suppress fires.
A rural community is defined as having 10,000 or less population. This 10,000 population limit for participation in the VFA Program facilitates distribution of available VFA funding to the most needy fire departments.
The Forest Service and State foresters endeavor to:
- Organize, train and equip fire departments in unprotected rural areas and rural communities
- Assist qualifying fire departments in saving lives and protecting property in unprotected or inadequately protected rural areas
- Prevent or reduce loss of life, protect financial investments and enhance environmental quality to revitalize rural America
- Increase the opportunity for rural fire departments to acquire FEPP/ FFP, training and current information on techniques of fire prevention
Following are examples of eligibility requirements for use of VFA funding:
- A single fire department serving a rural area or a rural community with a population of 10,000 of less is eligible (latest Census).
- Area fire departments (fire districts, townships, etc.) may serve an aggregate population of greater than 10,000 as long as the service area of the fire department includes a rural area or a rural community having a popluation of 10,000 or less. The VFA funding must be used to benefit the rural population.
- A single county or town with a population over 10,000 that is served by two or more fire districts operating entirely within the bounds of the county or town may qualify as long as the service area of a given fire department includes a rural area or a rural community or the population of the fire department's jurisdiction is 10,000 or less. The VFA funding must be used for the rural area.
- A single community with a population greater than 10,000 and having a single fire department with one or more fire stations may qualify. The fire department must have a service area that includes a rural area or community that does not exceed 10,000 population. The VFA funding must be used only for the benefit of the rural population. Similarly a single community with a population greater than 10,000 that also provides fire protection to an adjoining rural community of 10,000 or less population by contract, may also be eligible provided the VFA funding is used entirely to support the rural community.
- A single community fire department serving a population greater than 10,000 and not providing protection to a rural area or to a rural community is not eligible for VFA financial assistance.
Political structure influences how states administer the VFA Program. State subdivisions may include counties, parishes, cities, towns, townships, boroughs, villages, districts and other political subdivisions.
- While paid fire departments are not excluded from participation in the VFA Program, targeting of grants to qualifying fire departments having a membership comprised of at least 80 percent volunteer firefighters is encouraged.
- All qualifying communities and fire departments must comply with any specific criteria established by State officials and consistent with requirements established by the Forest Service. As an example a State Forester could require each eligible rural community to have a signed cooperative fire protection agreement with the State Forester's office.
- The community share (match) of the financial assistance must be available at the time of application. Applicants may not derive their share from other sources of Federal assistance.
- The community share of the financial assistance can be in the form of cash or in - kind contributions. Examples of in - kind contributions would be volunteer labor for some projects; such as installation of dry fire hydrants or donation of services such as the use of volunteer instructors to present a training course.
- VFA grants may be approved to fire training academies and rural fire departments, including those operated by federally recognized Indian tribes. Training recipients must come from fire departments that qualify for VFA funding. States may retain funding for program administration and to provide centralized purchasing, conversion, or rehabilitation of FEPP equipment, or training where the State Forester provides these services directly to RFD's. Federal VFA funding must be matched at least 50 percent by rural fire departments and training academies and must qualify for VFA funds.
Uses of VFA Funding
States are encouraged to use their funding to assist those departments with the greatest need as well as to fund projects having the most benefits.
- VFA dollars may be used to fund multi-community / fire department projects such as a mutual-aid communications network. Projects to develop static water supplies such as dry hydrants and cisterns also provide great benefits and may enable some communities to lower their fire insurance rates.
- VFA funding may be used to convert FEPP vehicles to water tenders, engines, brush trucks and equipment trucks. Fire prevention activities should be conducted by fire departments to inform communities of ways to safeguard their properties and to prevent ignitions as reference in the CFFA.
- Each fire that is prevented eliminates risks to lives, property and natural resources and saves the cost and risks of a fire department response. Activities such as the above usually generate greater benefits to the community than funding nozzles; but in some cases a department may need to buy the nozzles.
- VFA funding is not authorized for purchase, construction or renovation of capital improvements such as fire stations or pressurized water systems. Loans are available through other Federal sources for these purposes.
- The VFA Program is monitored to assure that funding is legally spent in ways that improve the protection of rural communities.