Volunteer Fire Assistance Grants
Cooperative Forestry Assistance Act of 1978 Volunteer Fire Assistance
2023 VFA Grant Information
The Volunteer Fire Assistance Grant (VFA) program is made possible by the Federal Cooperative Forestry Assistance Act of 1978. The grant is a 50/50 matching funds program. Its purpose is to make funds available to fire departments in rural areas and rural communities for the purchase of eligible wildland firefighting suppression equipment such as portable pumps, portable backpack pumps, firefighting hand tools, fire hose, approved lightweight fire-resistant clothing, hard hats, turnout gear, PPE (personal protective equipment), portable radios, portable generators, chainsaws and dry hydrant installation.
The Volunteer Fire Assistance Grant program is funded by the U.S. Forest Service and administered by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (The Department). New York State was named a grant recipient of $976,622 for the 2023 federal fiscal year.
Fire departments eligible to apply may receive grant funding up to $2,500 for the purchase of firefighting equipment. Fire departments are required to equally match (50/50) the amount of the grant award. As an example, a fire department is required to spend up to $5,000 on the purchase of approved firefighting equipment in order to be reimbursed an equal grant amount up to $2,500.
- A single fire department serving a rural area or rural community with a population of 10,000 or 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 rural community having a population of 10,000 or less. The VFA funding must be used to benefit the rural population.
- A single county or town with a population of 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 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 populations. 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.
A fire department's success or failure in receiving a grant is based on a point system with points received for:
- Population (ex: less than 1,000 = 10 points; 1,000-2,000 = 9 points, and so on)
- I.S.O. rating (ex: rating of 9 = 10 points; 5/5x = 5 points; 8 or less = 1 point)
- Newly organized department = 10 points
- Native American Indian community in protection area = 10 points
- Points will be deducted on a pro-rated basis from the total of these four factors if a grant was awarded to the fire department within the last five years.
- A point for use in future years will be added for each year the applicant submits a VFA grant application and does not receive a grant award.
- Only one application per local jurisdiction will be considered.
- Only expenses directly related to wildland firefighting suppression efforts are eligible for funding. These include the purchase of portable pumps, portable backpack pumps, hand tools, fire hose, approved lightweight fire-resistant clothing, hard hats, turnout gear, PPE, portable radios, portable generators, and dry hydrant installation. Grant funding cannot be applied to any single item costing $5,000 or more.
- Expenditures not directly related to firefighting, such as search and rescue, acquisition of land, construction of buildings and facilities, major apparatus purchases and maintenance of equipment items items are not eligible for funding.
- Upon notification of receiving a VFA grant award, fire departments are required to complete all grant process paperwork by June 30, 2025. This process includes: purchasing equipment, providing copies of invoices as proof of purchase, and scheduling an equipment inspection by a local NYS Forest Ranger.
The application deadline is November 15, 2023.
Applications will be accepted by mail at:
NYS Department of Environmental Conservation
Division of Forest Protection
625 Broadway, 3rd Floor
Albany, NY 12233-2560
E-mail to: [email protected].
If sending electronically, save the application and send as an attachment.