GATE CITY — Four volunteer fire departments in Scott County were awarded grants from the Virginia Department of Forestry this week that will go to help purchase equipment and other necessities.
Departments from Gate City, Hiltons, Fort Blackmore and Nickelsville were among 122 from across the commonwealth that received a total of $191,688 through the VDOF’s Volunteer Fire Assistance Program.
The money will be used to purchase items like personal protective equipment, communications gear, water tanks for brush trucks, wildland fire specialty tools, and training materials.
The individual grants range in size from $250 to $2,500.
“The VFA Program provides vital funding to the many volunteer fire departments that assist us with the suppression of wildfires across the state,” said John Miller, director of VDOF’s Resource Protection Division. “This money helps VFDs purchase much-needed equipment that provides for the safety of both the public and these volunteer firefighters. I only wish we had enough funding to support all their needs.”
The four Scott County volunteer departments received approximately $6,500 through the VFA Program.
That amount includes awards of $2,000 for the Hiltons VFD and $1,500 each for departments in Gate City and Nickelsville. The Fort Blackmore VFD grant totaled $1,467.
Gate City Volunteer Fire Department Chief Jeff Brickey said his department will use its $1,500 to procure narrowband radios for its members.
“We applied for portable radios to meet our need for narrowbanding of radio frequencies under the FCC regulations,” Brickey said. “This will hopefully allow us to purchase eight to 10 radios. ... It gives us a good start to replace our older radios that don’t have the capability to operate on the newer frequencies.”
Brickey said his department will be required to come up $1,500 in matching funds for the grant.
Although not a large amount, Brickey said grants like the ones awarded by the VDOF are important because they can help offset some of the budget constraints small volunteer fire departments face in the current fiscal climate.
“In a day when local governments have constraints on their budgets and with the cost of materials and equipment getting higher, this makes our money go a lot further,” Brickey said.
A total of 145 fire departments applied for grants this year, and 122 were approved, VDOF officials said. The requests for support totaled $734,998 — far more than the awarded amount. Since the VFA Program began in 1975, the VDOF has awarded more than $3 million to volunteer fire departments throughout the commonwealth.