Almost one-fifth of the nearly $298,000 in grant money from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Forestry’s Volunteer Fire Assistance Program will benefit several regional fire departments in southwest and southeastern Ohio.
Local first responders in Adams, Ross and Pike counties recently recieved VFAP grants as part of the Division of Forestry’s efforts to give support to local fire departments that forestry Chief Dan Balser called “first responders to wildfires.”
“These VFAP grant projects are focused on supporting rural fire departments and helping them continue their good service to their communities,” he said. “The grants were open to fire departments in Ohio’s wildfire protection area that serve communities with populations of less than 10,000 people.”
An ODNR news release stated that many rural fire departments in Ohio have very tight budgets, and most of their limited resources must be focused on absolute essentials for keeping emergency services up and running.
The Division of Forestry’s VFAP grant program was initiated to allow for cost sharing for important purchases like firefighter personal protective equipment and basic fire suppression equipment, a news release said.
ODNR said the grant money may be used by local fire departments to fund purchases of all-terrain and utility vehicles, slip-in wildfire pump units, wildfire and structure fire personal protective equipment (PPE), Multi-Agency Radio Communication System (MARCS) radios, tools and other items to support fire and emergency response efforts.
It added that the VFAP grants may also be used to support multi-community projects where several neighboring fire departments work cooperatively toward wider reaching goals and benefits all the jurisdictions involved, with the grants funding up to 50 percent of the total project involved, but not to exceed $10,000.
As previously reported in The Times-Gazette, the wildfire protection area was expanded earlier this year by the ODNR with all of Highland County joining with other counties in the region to foster successful forest management activities, which included a greater policing of burn season laws and times.
Adam Somerville, a natural resources officer with Rocky Fork Lake and Paint Creek Lake State Parks in his jurisdiction, said that state law prohibits open burning during the spring months of March, April and May, and in the fall during October and November between the hours of 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. daily.
“The wildland fires we investigate aren’t on the same scale as the ones we saw out west where thousands of acres are involved,” he said. “Typically, here in Ohio we work fires that may be 20 to 50 acres in size, but we have had some bigger ones like the Mitchell Ridge fire in the Pike State Forest a couple of years ago.”
He said violating the open burning law is a third-degree misdemeanor, and if someone is charged and convicted, they could face up to 60 days in jail.
Regional fire departments that received VFAP grant funds included:
● Bainbridge Volunteer Fire Department, $2,860 for MARCS radios.
● Elm Grove Volunteer Fire Department Inc., southeast of Latham in Pike County, $8,000 for slip-in units and tool boxes.
● Peebles Fire Department in Adams County, $10,000 to re-outfit a recently acquired 2016 Polaris RZR (Razor) utility vehicle.
● Twin Township Fire Department, east of Bainbridge in Ross County, $10,000 for purchase of a utility vehicle.
● Pebble Township Volunteer Fire Department, east of Pike Lake State Park in Pike County, $7,298 for the purchase of slip-in units.
● Benton Township Volunteer Fire Department, which is dominated by Pike Lake State Park in Pike County, $2,570 for tools and the purchase of a self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA).
● Scott Township Fire Department in Adams County, which includes the Tranquility Wildlife Area to the north and the village of Seaman to the south, $2,860 for MARCS radios.
● Huntington Township Fire Department, located in Ross County between and to the south of Bourneville and Chillicothe, $1,711 for MARCS radios.
● Franklin Township Fire Department, northeast of Peebles in Adams County and home to the Brush Creek State Forest, $2,006 to purchase MARCS radio’s and tools.
● Winchester Community Fire Department in Adams County, $4,969 for MARCS radio’s and tools.
The ODNR said the grant funding was provided to the Division of Forestry by the U.S. Forest Service.
Reach Tim Colliver at 937-402-2571