Local VFDs receive grants from the Forestry Commission
by MARK LEDBETTER
TALLADEGA COUNTY — Alabama Sen. Jerry Fielding assisted Talladega County Forestry Specialist Phillip Horne with the distribution of $8,665 grant funds to Talladega County’s 15 volunteer fire departments Thursday night at the 911/EMA center on Alabama Highway 21.

The grant was awarded by the Rural Community Fire Protection (RCFP) Division, a division of the Alabama Forestry Commission dedicated to rural fire protection services.

According to information provided by the Forestry Commission the RCFP is “designed to strengthen the working relationship between the Alabama Forestry Commission and the volunteer fire service.”

The RCFP’s steering committee is composed of 25 volunteer firefighters from six Commission regions. The purpose of this committee is to make recommendations to the State Forester regarding how to improve the rural community fire program and solve immediate problems including parts exchange, training, and financial assistance through federal grants.

Volunteer Fire Assistance Coordinator for the Commission, Greg Wood, said the money awarded is mandated by the state legislature to be allocated to certified local volunteer fire departments. He said there are 1,000 certified departments in the state.

Wood said grants will be awarded two times per year during the first and third quarters of the state’s fiscal year.

Wood said guidelines restrict how the money can be spent.

“It can be used to make payments on buildings, trucks, and equipment,” Wood said. “It can’t be used to purchase food for fund raisers or for parties for the department.”

The commission also provides training and equipment to enhance local volunteer fire departments ability to provide fire protection for the local residents they serve.

Horne, working out of Talladega County offices, attends the monthly meetings of Talladega County Volunteer Fire Department Association and provides local departments with information regarding equipment availability, communications, and other information the local departments need.

Prior to distributing checks to each VFD’s representative, Fielding read a letter from Gov. Robert Bentley expressing his thanks to the local departments.

“I would like to send special thanks to you and the members of [each] department for your selfless dedication and services to your community.”

Each department was awarded $577. This was the second grant awarded to the departments this year.

Fielding also responded to a question by Sycamore Fire Chief Andrea Payne regarding continued funding. The Association depends on receiving a portion of sales tax revenues.

“I know revenue is down,” Fielding said, “primarily because the race track attendance is down.”

“I support you 100 percent and if I can do anything to help you let me know,” Fielding said.

Fielding said he would work with other area legislators and look into the possibilities of restructuring the formula for revenue distribution to the local departments.

Wood said all local departments are facing the same problems. He said some local areas pass local bills that make some situations more stable but many departments are faced with financial issues and volunteers.

“Times are tough,” Wood said. “Many are spending money out of pocket or used personal vehicles, and for many it isn’t financially feasible to volunteer.”

Contact Mark Ledbetter at mledbetter@dailyhome.com

© 2012