The Fire and Aviation Management Staff (F&AM) of the Washington Office, would like to extend our appreciation to Jack Horton, former employee of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service Northeastern Area, who has devoted his time as a volunteer to complete this national Volunteer Fire Assistance Desk Guide. The national Guide is patterned after an earlier Northeastern Area Rural Community Fire Protection Desk Guide, in which Jack also played a major role in developing.
The Northeastern Area formed a committee of State and Federal participants to create the original Rural Community Fire Protection Desk Guide for the Northeastern Area. Notable in that effort were: Steve Creech, Indiana Division of Forestry; Tom Bourn, Rhode Island Division of Forest Environment; Bill Hale, Missouri Forestry Division; Alan Zentz, Maryland Forest Service; Amy Adams, USDA Forest Service; and Dennis Pendleton, USDA Forest Service. Bill Terry of the USDA Forest Service prepared material for Appendices K and L of the Guide.
The USDA prohibits discrimination in all its programs and activities on the basis of race, color, national origin, gender, religion, age, disability, political beliefs, sexual orientation, and marital or family status. (Not all prohibited bases apply to all programs.) Persons with disabilities who require alternative means for communication of program information (Braille, large print, audiotape, etc.) should contact USDA's TARGET Center at 202-720-2600 (voice and TDD).
To file a omplaint of discrimination, write USDA, Director, Office of Civil Rights, Room 326-W, Whitten Building, 14th and Independence Avenue S.W., Washington, DC 20250-9410 or call 202-720-5964 (voice or TDD). USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer.
The Volunteer Fire Assistance Program was formerly known as the Rural Community Fire Protection (RCFP) Program. The name of the Program was changed to Volunteer Fire Assistance (VFA) during the Fiscal Year(FY)1999 budget process. The new name and its acronym are used throughout this guide.
The purpose of this desk guide is to provide a ready reference for State and Forest Service personnel who are charged with administering the Volunteer Fire Assistance (VFA) Program. The Program is authorized in the Cooperative Forestry Assistance Act of 1978, as amended by the Forest Stewardship Act of 1990.
Important sections of Title 7 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) are discussed as they affect the VFA Program. Some CFR references are presented in their entirety. However, to include copies of all material which affect management of the Program would be too voluminous. State Fire Supervisors and others concerned with administering the VFA Program should consult with their grants management personnel as necessary. Grants personnel have copies of the documentation referenced in this Guide.
The Guide is generic in nature. It is not possible to deal with all issues that may affect specific States. States differ considerably in their political structure. Some States may have political subdivisions which include only counties, cities and special purpose districts such as fire districts. Others include various combinations of such legal entities as counties, parishes, villages, boroughs, cities, towns, townships, districts or others. State requirements also differ with respect to property management, procurement, records management, etc. Legal language in this Guide is presented from the Federal perspective. State personnel should work with their Regional or Area VFA Coordinators to resolve special issues concerning the Program.
It is intended that States have flexibility to manage the VFA Program according to State needs to the maximum extent possible, while assuring that minimum Federal requirements are met.
|TABLE OF CONTENTS|
|OVERVIEW OF THE VOLUNTEER FIRE ASSISTANCE PROGRAM|
Congress has determined that the protection of rural areas and rural communities from fire is of national interest therefore, there is a Federal role.
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 VFA Program was originally authorized in Title IV of Public Law 92-419, "The Rural Development Act of 1972." The Act authorized up to $7,000,000 to organize, train, and equip local fire forces to prevent, control and suppress fires in rural areas. In Fiscal Year 1975 the first appropriation of $3.5 million was provided for financial, technical, and other assistance to the State Foresters to carry out this Program. Title IV was later repealed by the Cooperative Forestry Assistance Act of 1978 (Public Law 95-313). Section 7 of the Cooperative Forestry Assistance Act (CFAA) became the authority which authorized the Cooperative Fire protection (CFP) programs. State Fire Assistance (SFA), formerly known as Rural Fire Prevention and Control, the cooperative wildfire protection program, became Section 7(b)2 and Volunteer Fire Assistance became Section 7(b)3. The name "Rural Fire Prevention and Control" was changed to "State Fire Assistance" during the FY-1999 budget process. The CFAA was amended by the Forest Stewardship Act of 1990, better known as the "1990 Farm Bill." This Act moved the CFP programs to Section 10 of the CFAA, so the authority for the VFA Program is now contained in Section 10(b)3 of the CFAA. This change did not alter the original language of the CFAA with respect to VFA.
The CFAA, as amended, is contained in Appendix A. Section 306(a) of the Consolidated Farm and Rural Development Act, which provides for the 10,000 population limit for participation in the VFA Program, is contained in Appendix B.
More than 1.5 billion acres in the United States are privately owned or owned by State and local governments. Basic fire protection on these lands is the responsibility of State and local entities. Loss of human lives, natural resources, crops, homes and facilities such as sawmills, pulp and paper mills, farm buildings and other rural businesses by fires can throw many people out of work, reduce community tax bases and have other disastrous consequences. The VFA Program helps to enhance stability of rural areas by reducing these losses. Where little or no fire protection is available, the VFA Program can assist in organizing, training, and equipping communities to provide for their basic protection. Federal, State, and local cooperation has a significant effect in reducing losses. During the last 70 years this cooperation has resulted in a level of fire protection that reduced the average annual burned area of wildland fires from 40 million acres to less than five million acres.
There are more than 28,000 rural fire departments (RFDs) nationwide (1990 survey). Most are completely or predominately volunteer departments. Nearly one million volunteers serve in fire departments across the nation. A 1991 study, commissioned by the U.S. Department of Commerce, National Institute of Standards and Technology, estimated that the cost of converting the nation's volunteer firefighters to paid status would cost about 37 billion dollars (Meade 1991). It is clear that volunteer firefighters are a tremendous asset to the nation and deserve support at all levels of government and from the general public.
The Volunteer Fire Assistance Program assists volunteer rural fire departments by providing cost-share grants for training, equipping and organizing. Rural Fire Departments represent the first line of defense in coping with fires and other emergencies in rural areas and rural communities. They provide nearly 80% of initial attack on wildland fires in the United States. These departments are charged with the protection of lives, homes and business investments in rural America. Their presence enhances rural development opportunities and economic vitality, thereby improving standards of living in rural areas. Rural fire departments also provide major assistance to State forestry agencies in the suppression of wildland fires and in some States RFD's suppress all such fires. They save taxpayers an estimated $37 billion annually by providing fire protection services at little to no cost.
Rural fire departments also play a major role in suppressing wildfires on Federal lands. The USDA Forest Service and various U.S. Department of the Interior land management agencies have entered into cooperative agreements with many rural fire departments. These agreements enhance the protection of both communities and natural resources. A level of fire protection is attained which would be impossible without such cooperation. Interagency agreements provide a cost-effective means of enhancing fire protection.
Rural firefighters are facing increased hazards with the proliferation of hazardous materials (flammable, explosive, reactive and toxic), increased traffic congestion and increased numbers of fire alarms associated with increased populations in rural and wildland/urban interface areas. Recent surveys also show there are fewer citizen volunteers available or willing to serve in volunteer fire departments and personnel turnover is often high in these departments. Volunteer firefighters often lack adequate personal protective equipment such as self-contained breathing apparatus, turnout gear, fire apparatus, water application equipment (hose, nozzles, etc.) and communications equipment. Water supplies are often limited to the water that is carried in the tanks of responding apparatus. Firefighters are deployed on all-risk incidents. They respond to floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, accidents, hazmat and other incidents in addition to fire. Improved equipment and adequate training of firefighters in all aspects of their responsibilities is a must.
Volunteer firefighters are encouraged to meet personnel, operational, equipment, safety and training standards which are promulgated in national and State standards-making processes. The rural fire community is encouraged to participate in the development of such standards in order to achieve a reasonable level of firefighter training and personal protection in relation to the hazards they must face. Since these standards usually require the expenditure of time and money, rural firefighters should be involved in their development. National Fire Protection Association, (NFPA) statistical reports indicate that emphasis is needed on medical examination, physical fitness and improved driver training programs for volunteer firefighters, which will significantly reduce fatalities.
In Fiscal Year 1995, 7,713 applications for VFA financial assistance requesting $30,009,487 were received from RFD's and fire academies nationwide; 3,085 of these applications were approved for $3,361,000. The VFA Program, although small, provides much-needed assistance to rural communities. The effectiveness of the VFA Program can often be enhanced by utilization of the Federal Excess Personal Property (FEPP) Program to obtain vehicles, which can then be converted to fire apparatus using VFA funding.
The objectives of the VFA Program are listed below and are located in the Forest Service Manual (FSM) 3150.2.
In implementing these objectives the Forest Service and State Foresters endeavor to:
Following are examples of eligibility requirements for use of VFA funding.
Political structure influences how States' administer the VFA Program. States' subdivisions may include counties, parishes, cities, towns, townships, boroughs, villages, districts and other political subdivisions.
In the past the annual appropriations for the VFA Program have been delivered to the Forest Service through the Farmers Home Administration (FmHA). With reorganization of the U.S. Department of Agriculture the FmHA became the Rural Development - Rural Housing Service. Effective in FY-1999 funding will no longer pass through the Rural Housing Service to the Forest Service. VFA funding be allocated directly to the Forest Service.
The VFA Program was funded nationwide at $3,500,000 annually during the period 1991 - 1994. Funding dropped three percent in 1995 with $3,400,000 appropriated nationally. For fiscal year 1998, funding is $2,000,000.
A formula was originally used to distribute VFA funds, which were allocated to States under the Rural Development Act of 1972. Since passage of the CFAA in 1978 the formula continues to be used by the Forest Service's Washington Office to distribute funding to the Regions and NA. The Regions, NA, and IITF may use the formula if they wish to allocate VFA funding to their States. However, use of the formula is not required. This provides the Forest Service unit in consultation with their State Foresters, more flexibility to allocate VFA Program dollars to States to maximize the program benefits.
Some States use a small portion of their VFA funding for program administration; other States do not. It is desirable that the dollars withheld for this purpose be kept to a minimum in order to maximize the VFA funding available to RFDs and fire training academies. It is suggested that no more than ten percent of the VFA dollars be used for this purpose.
State Foresters will develop evaluation criteria for determining priorities for funding applicants for VFA money in consultation with the Forest Service (see Appendix C). State Foresters are encouraged to use a committee approach to evaluate VFA applications received from rural fire departments. For example the committee could include the State Fire Supervisor and Statewide or regional representatives of State fire chiefs' or firefighters' associations or members of a State fire advisory council. Use of a group of evaluators generally increases the credibility of the VFA financial approval process.
An Application for Federal Financial Assistance [Standard Form (SF) - 424] is used by State Foresters to apply for VFA grant funding. A sample of a completed SF-424, with its required narrative, assurances and certification is contained in Appendix D. State Fire Supervisors should assist their financial management sections with preparation of the narrative, which accompanies the application. Grant applications are approved by the Regional Foresters of Regions 1 - 6, 8, 10, the Area Director of NA and the Director of IITF. State Foresters are advised of approvals by means of "Award Letters." Some Forest Service units permit the use of consolidated State and Private Forestry grant payments including VFA funding. Others do not.
State Foresters may use their own application forms and processes for awards to subgrantees such as fire departments and training academies; or they may require use of the Federal SF-424 form. State Foresters must have written agreements with subrecipients for accountability of VFA expenditures.
VFA grants are awarded for a period of one year. If the State or the fire departments will have unobligated funding at the end of the Federal fiscal year, the State Forester may request extension of the grant by submitting a supplemental SF-424 requesting the extension for an additional fiscal year. This extension must be requested prior to the end of the current fiscal year or the funding will no longer be available.
State Foresters, through their financial management personnel, request advance or reimbursement of funds from the granting official using SF-270 or by electronic fund transfer. Status of funds is reported on SF-269 (or electronically) at the end of the Federal fiscal year. States' grants management personnel have these forms and are familiar with the processes. The annual VFA Program report, which is completed by the State's VFA Coordinator, is discussed below in Section E, Annual Volunteer Fire Assistance Report.
Grants to State and local Governments are administered according to requirements contained in Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Circular A-102. Implementing requirements appear in Title 7 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), Part 3016. Cost principles concerning allowable costs for these grants are contained in OMB Circular A-87.
Grants to institutions of higher education, non-profit corporations, and hospitals are administered according to requirements contained in OMB Circular A-110. Implementing regulations appear in 7 CFR 3019. Cost principles are contained in OMB Circular A-21 for institutions of higher education and A-122 for non-profit corporations.
State Fire Supervisors are encouraged to familiarize themselves with the above references. They are normally available in State offices through the section that handles grants management. Federal regulations also apply to subrecipients through the State Forester.
While grants to State Foresters are administered according to the requirements pertaining to State and local governments, the legal status of rural fire departments is often ambiguous. Most States contain fire departments of all three types mentioned below. While regulations for grants to subrecipients such as rural fire departments and fire training academies are similar whether operated by State and local governments or non-profit corporations, the regulations are located in different CFRs. Following are examples of the status of fire protection providers:
Most fire departments in rural areas and communities are non-profit corporations and they consist mostly of volunteers. It is suggested that the State Forester include a block on the VFA financial application form requesting the fire department's form of organization (municipal, fire district or non-profit corporation).
When the State Forester awards subgrants to fire training academies which are operated by institutions of higher education these subgrants will be administered according to 7 CFR 3019.
Management requirements for property purchased with VFA funding are similar whether state and local governments or the non-profits purchase the property. VFA property is discussed in Section II-D of this Guide.
States are encouraged to utilize 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 referenced in the Cooperative Forestry Assistance Act of 1978. Each fire, which 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. See Appendix E for unique examples of VFA projects.
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.
Audits are used to monitor compliance with State and Federal laws and regulations and to ensure the integrity of the VFA Program. States are responsible for conducting audits. States will furnish the Cognizant Federal Agency (see definition in Appendix M) with audit reports; Regional Foresters and the Area Director will cooperate, as needed, in developing actions to correct program deficiencies.
Audit requirements for State and local governments, institutions of higher education, and non-profit corporations are contained in Office of Management and Budget (OMB) circular A-133. Implementing regulations are contained in 7 CFR 3016 for state and local governments and 7 CFR 3019 for institutions of higher education and non-profit corporations. The regulations ensure program integrity through state audits. Contact your VFA Program Manager for a copy of these regulations.
Reviews will be conducted in accordance with Forest Service Manual (FSM) 1460.
Cooperative Management Reviews (CMR): These reviews cover the States' overall cooperative forestry assistance programs. A review will address such areas as forest resource management; forest health protection; fire protection; overall organizational and administrative issues, concerns and opportunities; grants financial management and compliance with Title VI civil rights legislation. The functional areas, such as fire protection, usually address program concerns of a general nature. Top line officers of the State Forester's organization and the Forest Service Regional and Area organizations normally conduct these reviews with assistance from their selected staff officers, as needed. The reviews are normally conducted at five-year intervals.
Cooperative Program Reviews (CPR): The Forest Service will work with the States to review their overall CFP programs. These reviews are usually much more detailed with respect to specific programs than CMRs. CFP Program Reviews should focus on administration, concerns and effectiveness of the VFA, RFPC, Cooperative Forest Fire Prevention (CFFP) and FEPP programs. The reviews are conducted as a team effort and usually involve the State Fire Supervisor, the responsible Forest Service Cooperative Fire Protection Administrator and other selected State and Federal staff members.
The Forest Service provides technical assistance to State Foresters as needed, to improve particular aspects of fire protection programs. These areas of concern have often been previously identified during cooperative management or program reviews; or States may need help in addressing new issues. These assistance trips are usually requested by the States and involve the State and Forest Service managers responsible for the area of concern (VFA Coordinator, FEPP Manager, etc.).
Records retention and access requirements for State and local governments (State Forester's office, municipal fire departments and fire districts) is covered in 7 CFR 3016.42 (see Appendix F). For non-profit RFDs this material is contained in 7 CFR 3019 (see Appendix G). The contents of these paragraphs are similar. The regulations apply to all financial and programmatic records, supporting documents, statistical records, equipment records and other records of grantees and subgrantees.
The length of the retention period for records is generally three years. However, if any litigation, claim, negotiation, audit or other action involving the records has been initiated prior to the end of the three-year period, the records shall be kept until all issues are resolved or until the end of the three-year period, whichever is later.
When USDA grant support is continued or renewed at annual or other intervals, the three-year retention period of each funding period starts on the day the recipient submits to USDA its annual or final expenditure report for that period. This section applies to the records retention starting date for most VFA records.
For "equipment" (and real property) the three-year retention period starts from the date of the equipment's disposition, replacement, or transfer at the direction of the awarding agency.
Fire departments may retain custody of the records for their equipment and supply purchases but they must make the records available for audits and for other management purposes.
The intent of the VFA Program is to assist fire departments in rural areas in improving their fire protection capabilities. The awarding agencies have broad latitude with respect to the types of projects that are approved. Regulations have been established for administration of equipment and supplies purchased with VFA funding. The definitions of "equipment" are similar for fire departments, which are operated by local governments (municipalities and fire districts) and for RFDs, which are operated as non-profit corporations (see "equipment" and "supplies" definitions in Appendix M). Most items purchased with VFA funding by rural fire departments would have an original acquisition cost of less than $5,000 and would, therefore, be considered "supplies." Due to the limited VFA funding available and complexities associated with accountability and disposal of equipment, high-cost purchases of equipment such as fire engines are usually not feasible. However, the funding can be utilized to assist with the conversion of other purchased, contributed, or FEPP vehicles to fire apparatus or as seed money in combination with other funds for equipment purchases. Equipment and supplies which may be purchased under the program include, but are not limited to radios, nozzles, hose, self-contained breathing apparatus, handtools, personal protective clothing, portable pumps and generators, class "A" foam delivery equipment and foam concentrate.
VFA funding recipients should be encouraged to utilize competitive bidding procedures for the acquisition of equipment, supplies and services. States may serve as centralized purchasing agents, or may be able to permit use of State contracts or quantity purchase awards and use of Federal General Services Administration (GSA) contracts. The object of such arrangements is to obtain equipment and supplies at the most beneficial price.
Accountability requirements differ between property defined as equipment and property defined as supplies.
State Foresters are responsible for property management, property marking requirements and inventory. VFA decals are available in several sizes for identifying property purchased with VFA funding. Fire departments should affix these labels to VFA property. See Appendix J for examples of the labels. Contact your State Forestry agency for VFA property decals.
The criteria listed under equipment below are intended as minimum standards of accountability for VFA equipment. States may require more stringent standards. Federal management requirements for equipment are contained in 7 CFR 3016.32 when State and local governments (see Appendix H) purchase these items; and 7 CFR 3019.34 when items are purchased by non-profit RFDs (see Appendix I).
Some items of equipment or supplies are "sensitive" in that they are subject to waste, fraud, and abuse. Some items are subject to theft because of their usefulness to the taker or because they can be readily sold. Examples include two-way portable radios, radio scanners, chain saws, portable pumps, small generators and cameras. This property may warrant special tracking. Like other property purchased with VFA funding, sensitive property will be managed according to State requirements. State Foresters should decide what the minimum dollar value is and what sensitive property items should be tracked. In establishing such requirements State Foresters should consider:
Title to equipment obtained under an VFA grant vests with the recipient or subrecipient whether purchased by State and local governments or by non-profit RFDs. For this reason the Forest Service does not maintain inventory records of this equipment. Equipment procured by State and local governments and non-profit fire departments shall be used, managed and disposed of according to State requirements (see Appendices H and I).
Equipment management requirements for fire departments operated by State and local governments are:
(1) Property records including a description of the property, a serial number or other identification number, the source of property, who holds title, the acquisition date and the cost of the property, percentage of Federal participation in the cost of the property, the location, use and condition of the property, and any ultimate disposition data including the date of disposal and sale price of the property must be maintained.
(2) A physical inventory of the property must be taken and the results reconciled with the property records at least once every two years.
(3) A control system must be developed to ensure adequate safeguards to prevent loss, damage, or theft of the property. Any loss, damage, or theft shall be investigated.
(4) Adequate maintenance procedures must be developed to keep the property in good condition.
(5) If the grantee or subgrantee is authorized or required to sell the property, proper sales procedures must be established to ensure the highest possible return.
Management requirements for property acquired by non-profit fire departments are similar to the above (see Appendix I). The recipient (the State) may follow its own property management requirements for equipment procured by non-profit RFDs.
7 CFR 3016.33 provides that title to supplies obtained by State and local governments under a grant shall vest in the grantee or subgrantee. For institutions of higher education and non-profit RFDs 7 CFR 3019.35 also provides that title vests in the recipient or subrecipient.
No Federal management requirements are listed. States may wish to manage "supplies" in accordance with either State requirements or in a manner similar to "equipment."
When an item of equipment is being sold that was wholly or partially purchased with VFA funding, the Federal Government has an interest vested in that equipment. The VFA percentage used to purchase the equipment must be applied to the sale price and recovered for the Government during the sale. This percentage will remain the same even following depreciation. If the VFA disposal sale amounts to less than $5,000 fair market value it is not required that the Federal Government be reimbursed for its percentage of the VFA funds used to purchase the equipment.
When fire departments dispose of equipment obtained in part with VFA funding, items with a fair market value per unit of less than $5,000 may be retained, sold or otherwise disposed of with no further obligation to the awarding agency. Items with a fair market value per unit of $5,000 or more may be retained or sold and the awarding agency shall have a right to an amount calculated by multiplying the current market value or proceeds from sale by the awarding agency's share of the equipment. See 7 CFR 3016.32 for property purchased by State and local governments (Appendix H) and 7 CFR 3019.34 for property purchased by non-profit rural fire departments (Appendix I).
Non-profit RFDs may deduct ten percent or $500, whichever is less from the amount due the Federal Government to cover sale expenses. Also, the Forest Service may authorize the recipient to use the entire proceeds of the sale for allowable program expenses instead of returning the money to the Federal government.
VFA equipment may be traded in or sold and the proceeds used to procure in-kind replacement property. "In-kind" means that the replacement equipment must be fire equipment, although, not necessarily the same type of item which is replaced. It is also probable that the fair market value at the time of disposal would seldom exceed the above threshold. For these reasons fire departments would seldom be required to remit a portion of the sales proceeds to the Federal Government.
For State and local governments 7 CFR 3016.33 provides that if there is a residual inventory of unused supplies exceeding $5,000 in total aggregate fair market value upon termination or completion of the award, and if the supplies are not needed for any other Federally sponsored programs or projects, the grantee or subgrantee shall compensate the awarding agency for its share (see Appendix H). For institutions of higher education and non-profit corporations 7 CFR 3019.35 also provides that the inventory of unused supplies must exceed the $5,000 threshold before the awarding agency must be compensated. (see Appendix I).
Each year, this report is due in the Washington Office by December 15.
The Regions and NA annually submit a report that itemizes the VFA Program dollar distribution to the States. This report is completed for each State. The report shows the total dollars expended on administrative costs, equipment costs, training costs, organizational costs, number of applications for assistance received and approved, and the dollar values of the Program. Figure 1 is a form for reporting accomplishments to the WO. Figure 2 is an example of a completed form. These data are obtained from the States following the close of the Federal fiscal year.
While the WO report is sufficiently detailed for the purposes of the Washington Office, the Regions, NA, and IITF may feel the need to further break down some information categories (equipment, qualifying fire departments, etc.). See Figure 3 for a format that may be used for this purpose. This format may be stored in the computer and modified each year to request specific information in addition to the items needed for the annual report to the Washington Office.
It is important to document VFA success stories in order to inform the public of the value of this program. Information should include how States have used these funds to improve fire suppression capabilities, water supplies or fire prevention. States are encouraged to submit news clippings with their annual VFA Report concerning such activities. Copies of press releases issued by the State Forester are also useful. Examples of cases where use of VFA funding has improved insurance rates are excellent. States are also encouraged to form State fire advisory councils to advise the State Forester concerning means to improve the effectiveness of the VFA Program.
|(A) must equal (B) + (C) + (H) and (H) must equal (I) + (J) + (K) + (L)|
|(A) must equal (B) + (C) + (H) and (H) must equal (I) + (J) + (K) + (L)|
COOPERATIVE FORESTRY ASSISTANCE ACT
RURAL FIRE PREVENTION AND CONTROL
(a) Congress finds that--
(1) significant accomplishments have been made by the Secretary and cooperating States in the prevention and control of fires on forest lands and on nonforested watersheds for more than fifty years;
(2) progress is being made by the Secretary and cooperating States and rural communities in the protection of human lives, agricultural crops and livestock, property and other improvements, and natural resources from fires in rural areas;
(3) notwithstanding the accomplishments and progress that have been made, fire prevention and control on rural lands and in rural communities are of continuing high priority to protect human lives, agricultural crops and livestock, property and other improvements, and natural resources;
(4) the effective cooperative relationships between the Secretary and the States regarding fire prevention and control on rural lands and in rural communities should be retained and improved;
(5) efforts in fire prevention and control in rural areas should be coordinated among Federal, State, and local agencies; and
(6) in addition to providing assistance to State and local rural fire prevention and control programs, the Secretary should provide prompt and adequate assistance whenever a rural fire emergency overwhelms, or threatens to overwhelm, the firefighting capability of the affected State or rural area.
(b) Notwithstanding the Federal Fire Prevention and Control Act of 1974, the Secretary is authorized, under whatever conditions the Secretary may prescribe, to--
(1) cooperate with State foresters or equivalent State officials in developing systems and methods for the prevention, control, suppression, and prescribed use of fires on rural lands and in rural communities that will protect human lives, agricultural crops and livestock, property and other improvements, and natural resources;
(2) provide financial, technical, and related assistance to State foresters or equivalent State officials, and through them to other agencies and individuals, for the prevention, control, suppression, and prescribed use of fires on non-Federal forest lands and other non-Federal lands;
(3) provide financial, technical, and related assistance to State foresters or equivalent State officials in cooperative efforts to organize, train, and equip local firefighting forces, including those of Indian tribes or other native groups, to prevent, control, and suppress fires threatening human lives, crops, livestock, farmsteads or other improvements, pastures, orchards, wildlife, rangeland, woodland, and other resources in rural areas.
As used herein, the term "rural areas" shall have the meaning setout in the first clause of section 306(a)(7) of the Consolidated Farm and Rural Development Act; and
(4) provide financial, technical, and related assistance to State foresters or equivalent State officials, and through them to other agencies and individuals, including rural volunteer fire departments, to conduct preparedness and mobilization activities, including training, equipping and otherwise enabling State and local firefighting agencies to respond to requests for fire suppression assistance.
(c) The Secretary, with the cooperation and assistance of the Administrator of General Services, shall encourage the use of excess personal property (within the meaning of the Federal Property and Administrative Services Act of 1949) by State and local fire forces receiving assistance under this section.
(d) To promote maximum effectiveness and economy, the Secretary shall seek to coordinate the assistance the Secretary provides under this section with the assistance provided by the Secretary of Commerce under the Federal Fire Prevention and Control Act of 1974.
(e) (1) There are hereby authorized to be appropriated annually such sums as may be needed to implement paragraphs (1), (2) and (3) of subsection (b) of this section.
(2) (A) There are hereby authorized to be appropriated annually $70,000,000 to carry out subsection (b)(4). Of the total amount appropriated to carry out subsection (b)(4)--(i) one-half shall be available only for State foresters or equivalent State officials, and through them to other agencies and individuals, of which not less than $100,000 shall be made available to each State; and(ii) one-half shall be available only for rural volunteer fire departments.
(B) The Federal share of the cost of any activity carried out with funds made available pursuant to this paragraph may not exceed 50 percent of the cost of that activity. The non-Federal share for such activity may be in the form of cash, services, or in-kind contributions.
(f) There shall be established in the Treasury a special rural fire disaster fund that shall be immediately available to and used by the Secretary to supplement any other money available to carry out this section with respect to rural fire emergencies, as determined by the Secretary. The Secretary shall determine that State and local resources are fully used or will be fully used before expending money in the disaster fund to assist a State in which one or more rural fire emergencies exist. There are hereby authorized to be appropriated such sums as may be needed to establish and replenish the disaster fund established by this subsection.
(g) As used in this Act--
(1) the term "rural volunteer fire department" means any organized, not for profit, fire protection organization that provides service primarily to a community or city with a population of 10,000 or less or to a rural area, as defined by the Secretary, whose firefighting personnel is 80 percent or more volunteer, and that is recognized as a fire department by the laws of the State; and (2) the term "mobilization" means any activity in which one firefighting organization assists another that has requested assistance.
CONSOLIDATED FARM & RURAL DEVELOPMENT ACT
(7) As used in this title, the terms "rural" and "rural area" shall not include any area in any city or town which has a population in excess of ten thousand inhabitants, except that (A) for the purpose of loans for essential community facilities under subsection (a)(1) of this section, the terms "rural" and "rural area" may include any area in any city or town that has a population not in excess of twenty thousand inhabitants; and (B) for purposes of loans and grants for private business enterprises under sections 304(b), 310B and 312(b), (c), and (d) the terms "rural" and "rural area" may include all territory of a State that is not within the outer boundary of any city having a population of fifty thousand or more and its immediately adjacent urbanized and urbanizing areas with a population density of more than one hundred persons per square mile, as determined by the Secretary of Agriculture according to the latest decennial census of the United States: Provided, that special consideration for such loans and grants shall be given to areas other than cities having a population of more than twenty-five thousand.
As amended 12/22/81
SAMPLE CRITERIA FOR EVALUATING VOLUNTEER FIRE ASSISTANCE APPLICATIONS
State Foresters have wide latitude in developing criteria for prioritizing applications for Volunteer Fire Assistance (VFA) funding which are received from fire departments and fire training academies. It is important that the system used to determine these priorities have credibility with the financial assistance applicants. Some considerations upon which criteria may be established are listed below. While this list is by no means all-inclusive it will serve as a guide to criteria which may be used. Applications are normally approved considering such factors as a community's need for the funding, willingness of the fire department to improve its capabilities and how the funding will be used. Many States devise point systems to rate each criterion used in the evaluation. Some considerations upon which criteria may be based are:
Insurance Services Office (ISO) rating for the community.
Availability of mutual-aid forces from other communities to provide fire suppression assistance to the community.
Willingness and ability of the community to provide wildfire suppression action on State-responsibility fires.
Use(s) of funding (personal protective equipment; conversion of Federal Excess Personal Property to fire apparatus; improvement of radio communications capability; installation of dry fire hydrants, cisterns and other measures to improve water supplies; purchase of water and foam delivery equipment such as portable pumps, hose, foam proportioners, air compressors, foam concentrate, portable water tanks; training of rural firefighters; organizing new fire departments; fire prevention activities).
Size of community (population).
Recency of prior VFA financial awards to the community.
Number of incidents responded to and potential for large-loss fires.
Willingness of the community to provide wildfire statistical reports to the State Forester.
Amount and condition of the community's fire equipment.
Community's tax base. This affects the community's ability to fund fire protection (not necessarily its willingness).
OMB Approval No. 0348-0043
|Previous Editions Not Usable||Standard Form 424A (4-88)
Prescribed by OMB Circular A-102
|Authorized for Local Reproduction|
|INSTRUCTIONS FOR THE SF 424|
|This is a standard form used by applicants as a required facesheet for preapplications and applications submitted for Federal assistance. It will be used by Federal agencies to obtain applicant certification that States which have established a review and comment procedure in response to Executive Order 12372 and have selected the program to be included in their process, have been given an opportunity to review the applicant's submission.|
|1.||Self-explanatory.||12.||List only the largest political entities affected (e.g., State, counties, cities).|
|2.||Date application submitted to Federal agency (or State if applicable) & applicant's control number (if applicable).||13.||Self-explanatory.|
|3.||State use only (if applicable).||14.||List the applicant's Congressional District and any District(s) affected by the program or project.|
|4.||If this application is to continue or revise an existing award, enter present Federal identifier number. If for a new project, leave blank.||15.||Amount requested or to be contributed during the first funding/budget period by each contributor. Value of in-kind contributions should be included on appropriate lines as applicable. If the action will result in a dollar change to an existing award, indicate only the amount of the change. For decreases, enclose the amounts in parantheses. If both basic and supplemental amounts are included, show breakdown on an attached sheet. For multiple program funding, use totals and show breakdown using same categories as item 15.|
|5.||Legal name of applicant, name of primary organizational unit which will undertake the assistance activity, complete address of the applicant, and name and telephone number of the person to contact on matters related to this application.||16.||Applicants should contact the State Single Point of Contact (SPOC) for Federal Executive Order 12372 to determine whether the application is subject to the State intergovernmental review process.|
|6.||Enter Employer Identification Number (EIN) as assigned by the Internal Revenue Service.||17.||This question applies to the applicant organization, not the person who signs as the authorized representative. Categories of debt include delinquent audit disallowances, loans and taxes.|
|7.||Enter the appropriate letter in the space provided.||18.||To be signed by the authorized representative of the applicant. A copy of the governing body's authorization for you to sign this application as official representative must be on file in the applicant's office. (Certain Federal agencies may require that this authorization be submitted as part of the application.)|
|8.||Check appropriate box and enter appropriate letter(s) in the space(s) provided:
--"New" means a new assistance award.
--"Continuation" means an extension for an additional funding/budget period for a project with a projected completion date.
--"Revision" means any change in the Federal Government's financial obligation or contingent liability from an existing obligation.
|9.||Name of Federal agency from which assistance is being requested with this application.|
|10.||Use the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance number and title of the program under which assistance is requested.|
|11.||Enter a brief descriptive title of the project. If more than one program is involved, you should append an explanation on a separate sheet. If appropriate (e.g., construction or real property projects), attach a map showing project location. For preapplications, use a separate sheet to provide a summary description of this project.|
|SF 424 (REV 4-88)|
BUDGET INFORMATION -- Non-Construction Programs
|Standard Form 424A (4-88)
Prescribed by OMB Circular A-102
|Authorized for Local Reproduction|
|INSTRUCTIONS FOR THE SF-424A|
Section A. Budget Summary
Lines 1-4, Columns (c) through (g.)
Line 5 -- Show the totals for all columns used.
Section B. Budget Categories
Lines 6a-i - Show the totals of Lines 6a to 6h in each column.
Line 6j - Show the amount of indirect cost.
Line 6k - Enter the total of amounts on Lines 6i and 6j. For all applications for new grants and cintinuation grants the total amount in column (5), Line 6k, should be the same as the total amount shown in Section A, Column (g), Line 5. For supplemental grants and changes to grants, the total amount of the increase or decrease as shown in Columns (1)-(4), Line 6k should be the same as the sum of the amounts in Section A, Columns (e) and (f) on Line 5.
Line 7 - Enter the estimated amount of income, if any, expected to be generated from this project. Do not add or subtract this amount from the total project amount. Show under the program narrative statement the nature and source of income. The estimated amount of program income may be considered by the federal grantor agency in determining the total amount of the grants.
Section C. Non-Federal Resources
Lines 8-11 - Enter the amounts of non-Federal resources that will be used on the grant. If in-kind contributions are included, provide a brief explanation on a separate sheet.
Column (a) - Enter the program titles identical to Column (a), Section A. A breakdown by function or activity is not necessary.
Column (b) - Enter the contribution to be made by the applicant.
Column (c) - Enter the amount of the State's cash and in-kind contribution if the applicant is not a State or State agency. Applicants which are a State or State agencies should leave this column blank.
Column (d) - Enter the amount of cash and in-kind contributions to be made from all other sources.
Column (e) - Enter the totals of Columns (b), (c), and (d).
Line 12 - Enter the total for each of Columns (b)-(e). The amount in Column (e) should be equal to the amount on Line 5, Column (f), Section A.
Section D. Forecasted Cash Needs
Line 13 - Enter the amount of cash needed by quarter from the grantor agency during the first year.
Line 14 - Enter the amount of cash from all other sources needed by quarter during the first year.
Line 15 - Enter the totals of amounts on Lines 13 and 14.
Section E. Budget Estimates of Federal Funds Needed for Balance of the Project
Lines 16 - 19 - Enter in Column (a) the same grant program titles shown in Column (a), Section A. A breakdown by function or activity is not necessary. For new applications and continuation grant applications, enter in the proper columns amounts of Federal funds which will be needed to complete the program or project over the succeeding funding periods (usually in years). This section need not be completed for revisions (amendments, changes, or supplements) to funds for the current year of existing grants.
If more that four lines are needed to list the program titles, submit additional schedules as necessary.
Line 20 - Enter the total for each of the Columns (b)-(e). When additional schedules are prepared for this Section, annotate accordingly and show the overall totals on this line.
Section F. Other Budget Information
Line 21 - Use this space to explain amounts for individual direct object-class cost categories that may appear to be out of the ordinary or to explain the details as required by the Federal grantor agency.
Line 22 - Enter the type of indirect rate (provisional, predetermined, final or fixed) that will be in effect during the funding period, the estimated amount of the base to which the rate is applied and the total indirect expense.
Line 23 - Provide any other explanations or comments deemed necessary.
|SF 424A (4-88)|
|OMB Approval No. 348-0040|
|ASSURANCES -- NON-CONSTRUCTION PROGRAMS|
|Note:||Certain of these assurances may not be applicable to your project or program. If you have questions, please contact the awarding agency. Further, certain Federal awarding agencies may require applicants to certify to additional assurances. If such is the case, you will be notified.|
|As the duly authorized representative of the applicant I certify that the applicant:
|1.||Has the legal authority to apply for Federal assistance, and the institutional, managerial and financial capability (including funds sufficient to pay the non-Federal share of project costs) to ensure proper planning, management and completion of the project described in this application.||10.||Will comply, if applicable, with flood insurance purchase requirements of Section 102(a) of the Flood Disaster Protection Act of 1973 (P.L. 93-234) which requires recipients in a special flood hazard area to participate in the program and to purchase flood insurance if the total cost of insurable construction and acquisition is $10,000 or more.|
|2.||Will give the awarding agency, the Comptroller General of the United States, and if appropriate, the State, through any authorized representative, access to and the right to examine all records, books, papers, or documents related to the award; and will establish a proper accounting system in accordance with generally accepted accounting standards or agency directives.||11.||Will comply with environmental standards which may be prescribed pursuant to the following: (a) institution of environmental quality control measures under the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (P.L. 91-190) and Executive Order (EO) 11514; (b) notification of violating facilities pursuant to EO 11738; (c) protection of wetlands pursuant to EO 11990; (d) evaluation of flood hazards in floodplains in accordance with EO 11988; (e) assurance of project consistency with the approved State management program developed under the Coastal Zone Management Act of 1972 (16 U.S.C. §§ 1451 et seq.); (f) conformity of Federal actions to State (Clear Air) Implementation Plans under Section 176(c) of the Clear Air Act of 1955, as amended (42 U.S.C. § 7401 et seq.); (g) protection of underground sources of drinking water under the Safe Drinking Water Act of 1974, as amended, (P.L. 93-523); and (h) protection of endangered species under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended, (P.L. 93-205).|
|3.||Will establish safeguards to prohibit employees from using their positions for a purpose that constitutes or presents the appearance of personal or organizational conflict of interest, or personal gain.||12.||Will comply with the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act of 1968 (16 U.S.C. §§ 1271 et seq.) related to protecting components or potential components of the national wild and scenic rivers system.|
|4.||Will initiate and complete the work within the applicable time frame after receipt of approval of the awarding agency.||13.||Will assist the awarding agency in assuring compliance with Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, as amended (16 U.S.C. 470), EO 11593 (identification and protection of historic properties), and the Archaeological and Historic Preservation Act of 1974 (16 U.S.C. 469a-1 et seq.).|
|5.||Will comply with the Intergovernmental Personnel Act of 1970 (42 U.S.C. §§ 4728-4763) relating to prescribed standards for merit systems for programs funded under one of the nineteen statutes or regulations specified in Appendix A of OPM's Standards for a Merit System of Personnel Administration (5 C.F.R. 900, Subpart F).||14.||Will comply with P.L. 93-348 regarding the protection of human subjects involved in research, development, and related activities supported by this award of assistance.|
|6.||Will comply with all Federal statutes relating to nondiscrimination. These include but are not limited to: (a) Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (P.L. 88-352) which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color or national origin; (b) Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, as amended (20 U.S.C. §§ 1681-1683, and 1685-1686), which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex; (c) Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended (29 U.S.C. § 794), which prohibits discrimination on the basis of hardships; (d) the Age Discrimination Act of 1975, as amended (42 U.S.C. §§ 6101-6107), which prohibits discrimination on the basis of age; (e) the Drug Abuse Office and Treatment Act of 1972 (P.L. 92-255), as amended, relating to nondiscrimination on the basis of drug abuse; (f) the Comprehensive Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism Prevention, Treatment and Rehabilitation Act of 1970 (P.L. 91-616), as amended, relating to nondiscrimination on the basis of alcohol abuse or alcoholism; (g) §§ 523 and 527 of the Public Health Service Act of 1912 (42 U.S.C. 290 dd-3 and 290 ee-3), as amended, relating to confidentiality of alcohol and drug abuse patient records; (h) Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968 (42 U.S.C. § 3601 et seq.), as amended, relating to nondiscrimination in the sale, rental or financing of housing; (i) any other nondiscrimination provisions in the specific statute(s) under which application for Federal assistance is being made; and (j) the requirements of any other nondiscrimination statute(s) which may apply to the application.||15.||Will comply with the Laboratory Animal Welfare Act of 1966 (P.L. 89-544, as amended, 7 U.S.C. 2131 et seq.) pertaining to the care, handling, and treatment of warm blooded animals held for research, teaching, or other activities supported by this award of assistance.|
|7.||Will comply, or has already complied, with the requirements of Titles II and III of the Uniform Relocation Assistance and Real Property Acquisition Policies Act of 1970 (p.L. 91-646) which provide for fair and equitable treatment of persons displaced or whose property is acquired as a result of Federal or federally assisted programs. These requirements apply to all interests in real property acquired for project purposes regardless of Federal participation in purchases.||16.||Will comply with the Lead-Based Paint Poisoning Prevention Act (42 U.S.C. §§ 4801 et seq.) which prohibits the use of lead based paint in construction or rehabilitation of residence structures.|
|8.||Will comply with the provisions of the Hatch Act (5 U.S.C. §§ 1501-1508 and 7324-7328) which limit the political activities of employees whose principal employment activities are funded in whole or in part with Federal funds.||17.||Will cause to be performed the required financial and compliance audits in accordance with the Single Audit Act of 1984.|
|9.||Will comply, as applicable, with the provisions of the Davis-Bacon Act (40 U.S.C. §§ 276a to 276a-7), the Copeland Act (40 U.S.C. § 276c and 18 U.S.C. §§ 874), and the Contract Work Hours and Safety Standards Act (40 U.S.C. §§ 327-333), regarding labor standards for federally assisted construction subagreements.||18.||Will comply with all applicable requirements of all other Federal laws, executive orders, regulations and policies governing this program.|
|Standard Form 424B (4-88)
Prescribed by OMB Circular A-102
|Authorized for Local Reproduction|
STATE OF EAST PENN
PROGRAM DESCRIPTION: The USDA-Forest Service provides financial, technical and related assistance to State Foresters for organizing, training and equipping rural fire departments. State Foresters pass this funding through to local fire departments and fire training academies. High priority is placed on approving VFA funding in those communities having an Insurance Services Office (ISO) rating of 9 or 10 as these communities usually have the poorest fire protection. The State of East Penn favors those projects which reduce the numbers of rural fires, improve firefighter safety and training, enhance community water supplies, and improve communities' abilities to deliver extinguishing agents on fires. Examples of high priority funding proposals submitted by fire departments which will be approved by East Penn include: Purchase of self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) and purchase of structural and wildland fire resistant protective clothing; funding for the State Fire Academy to train rural fire departments in fire suppression, hazmat, rescue, incident command and management techniques; installation of dry fire hydrants to improve water supplies for fire suppression in rural areas; conversion of Federal Excess Personal Property (FEPP) vehicles to water tenders and engines; implementation of class "A" foam technology to improve the fire suppression effectiveness of water; and to conduct intensive fire prevention programs aimed at reducing the numbers of rural fire ignitions.
FEDERAL ROLE: The Volunteer Fire Assistance Program is authorized in Section 10(b)3 of the Cooperative Forestry Assistance Act of 1978 (PL 95-313, as amended by the Forest Stewardship Act of 1990 (PL 101-624). This Program authorizes expenditure of Federal funding to prevent and suppress rural fires by providing financial, technical and related assistance to rural communities to organize fire departments and to train and equip local firefighters. Populations of rural communities cannot exceed 10,000. VFA contributes to healthy sustainable, forests and sustainable economic development.
1996 ACCOMPLISHMENTS: In FY-1996 the State of East Penn accomplished the targets contained in our 1996 Application for Federal Financial Assistance. Funding priorities were as shown in the above Program Description. East Penn was able to approve VFA funding for 54 of the 77 applications received from rural fire departments and the State Fire Academy. The total Federal funding provided was $102,000 of the $189,000 requested. Eighty percent of the funding went to rural fire departments, 15% to the State Fire Academy and only five percent was retained by the State Forester for program administration.
1997 TARGETS: FY-1997 VFA funding remains the same as for FY-1996 ($102,000). Program priorities also remain the same. Therefore, East Penn will approve a similar number of applications and dollars awarded. Projects will be completed in FY-1997. Financial assistance applications will be evaluated by a three-person committee composed of the State Fire Supervisor, the Chairman of the State Fire Chiefs Association and a citizen residing in a rural area to improve both the quality and credibility of the award process.
UNIQUE EXAMPLES OF VFA FUNDING
Periodically, the responsible units should submit unique examples of their VFA accomplishments to the Washington Office. A national composite will be developed and distributed by Washington Office Fire and Aviation Management. Examples of unique VFA projects display innovative ways of providing enhanced fire protection to rural areas and communities.
Following are some unique examples of VFA projects, which have enhanced rural fire protection and rural development in the United States.
Funding was provided for:
Upgrading a community water supply system by installing dry fire hydrants. This project helped meet water supply needs for inter-agency wildland and urban interface fires as well as meeting the fire protection needs of the community.
Organizing a rural fire department. Establishment of this department enabled property owners to obtain fire insurance, which they had either been unable to obtain at all, or were able to obtain only at great cost, prior to establishment of the fire department. Subsequent upgrading of the fire department resulted in further reductions of insurance premiums.
Converting a 21-foot boat to a fireboat using VFA funding. The boat was obtained through the FEPP program. This boat permitted access to properties without roads and enabled 50% of the property owners to obtain fire insurance.
Constructing a mobile "Fire Safety House" to use for exit drill training for children. This State-constructed unit is available for use Statewide.
Developing a training program for multi-fire department responses. Structural firefighters were trained in wildland firefighting, including safety, fire behavior, structural triage, foam use, preplanning, and tactics for wildland/urban responses.
Training female firefighters to suppress fires. During the normal workweek most male firefighters were unavailable as they were employed outside the community. Incorporating women into the fire department upgraded the capability of the fire department to protect the community 24-hours a day, seven days a week.
Developing mobile computerized training simulators by two States to train local firefighters in wildland fire suppression.
Instructing rural firefighters in basic fire suppression through training scholarships.
Acquiring videos and supplemental training guides for instructing rural firefighters of all 27 fire departments in a county.
Conducting Incident Command System courses for rural fire departments. Two teams of instructors travel Statewide to present courses.
Developing "Fire Alert" by a county fire protection association. A fire prevention magazine targets children at the fifth grade level and below. The magazine has many agency uses and wide distribution across the State.
Developing public fire safety tips and prevention messages for release by the local news media.
Constructing a trailer-mounted portable breathing apparatus refill system by a county. The trailer is available for dispatch anywhere in the county.
Conducting a door-to-door risk assessment in a county with high wildfire risk in wildland/urban areas.
Identifying and mapping wildland/urban interface problem areas on quadrangle maps. A tri-county group will use a computer-aided design system and follow-up with a GIS platform for prevention and suppression planning on all lands.
Developing a method to evaluate the effectiveness of wildfire protection programs designed to protect homes in the wildland environment. Considerations include adequacy of water supplies, effects on fire insurance rates, zoning, and land-use planning involving all cooperators.
Implementing a cooperative wildland/urban interface demonstration project. This project is the first of its kind in the State. The project will have a full-time coordinator and representation from the insurance industry, county planning agency, RFDs, and other interested representatives of the rural fire community.
Establishing a rollover account for centralized purchasing of personal protective gear such as turnout clothing. Fire departments purchase these items from the State at a considerable cost savings.
Upgrading a five-county inter-department radio communications system, including mobile and handheld radios, base stations and repeaters.
VFA RECORDS RETENTION AND ACCESS REQUIREMENTS
Following is the text of 7 CFR 3016.42 concerning records retention and access requirements for State and local Governments. These requirements are used in the administration of the VFA Program.
3016.42 Retention and Access Requirements for Records.
(a) Applicability. (1) This section applies to all financial and programmatic records, supporting documents, statistical records, and other records of grantees or subgrantees which are:
(i) Required to be maintained by the terms of this Part, program regulations or the grant agreement, or
(ii) Otherwise reasonably considered as pertinent to program regulations or the grant agreement.
(2) This section does not apply to records maintained by contractors or subcontractors. For a requirement to place a provision concerning records in certain kinds of contracts, see paragraph 3016.36(i)(10).
(b) Length of retention period. (1) Except as otherwise provided, records must be retained for three years from the starting date specified in paragraph (c) of this section.
(2) If any litigation, claim, negotiation, audit or other action involving the records has been started before the expiration of the 3-year period, the records must be retained until completion of the action and resolution of all issues which arise from it, or until the end of the regular 3-year period, whichever is later.
(3) To avoid duplicate recordkeeping, awarding agencies may make special arrangements with grantees and subgrantees to retain any records which are continuously needed for joint use. The awarding agency will request transfer of records to its custody when it determines that the records possess long-term retention value. When the records are transferred to or maintained by the Federal agency, the 3-year retention requirement is not applicable to the grantee or subgrantee.
(c) Starting date of retention period. (1) General. When grant support is continued or renewed at annual or other intervals, the retention period for the records of each funding period starts on the day the grantee or subgrantee submits to the awarding agency its single or last expenditure report for that period. However, if grant support is continued or renewed quarterly, the retention period for each year's records starts on the day the grantee submits its expenditure report for the last quarter of the Federal fiscal year. In all other cases, the retention period starts on the day the grantee submits its final expenditure report. If an expenditure report has been waived, the retention period starts on the day the report would have been due.
(2) Real property and equipment records. The retention period for real property and equipment records starts from the date of the disposition or replacement or transfer at the direction of the awarding agency.
(3) Records for income transactions after grant or subgrant support. In some cases grantees must report income after the period of grant support. Where there is such a requirement, the retention period for the records pertaining to the earning of the income starts from the end of the grantee's fiscal year in which the income is earned.
(4) Indirect cost rate proposals, cost allocations plans, etc. This paragraph applies to the following types of documents, and their supporting records: indirect cost rate computations or proposals, cost allocation plans, and any similar accounting computations of the rate at which a particular group of costs is chargeable (such as computer usage chargeback rates or composite fringe benefit rates).
(i) If submitted for negotiation. If the proposal, plan, or other computation is required to be submitted to the Federal Government (or to the grantee) to form the basis for negotiation of the rate, then the 3-year retention period for its supporting records starts from the date of such submission.
(ii) If not submitted for negotiation. If the proposal, plan or other computation is not required to be submitted to the Federal Government (or to the grantee) for negotiation purposes, then the 3-year retention period for the proposal, plan, or computation and its supporting records starts from the end of the fiscal year (or other accounting period) covered by the proposal, plan, or other computation.
(d) Substitution of microfilm. Copies made by microfilming, photocopying, or similar methods may be substituted for the original records.
(e) Access to records. (1) Records of grantees and subgrantees. The awarding agency and the Comptroller General of the United States, or any of their authorized representatives, shall have the right of access to any pertinent books, documents, papers, or other records of grantees and subgrantees which are pertinent to the grant, in order to make audits, examinations, excerpts, and transcripts.
(2) Expiration of right of access. The rights of access in this section must not be limited to the required retention period but shall last as long as the records are retained.
(f) Restrictions on public access. The Federal Freedom of Information Act (5 U.S.C 552) does not apply to records. Unless required by Federal, State, or local law, grantees and subgrantees are not required to permit public access to their records.
VFA RECORDS RETENTION AND ACCESS REQUIREMENTS
3019.53 Retention and access requirements for records.
(a) This section sets forth requirements for record retention and access to records for awards to recipients. Federal awarding agencies shall not impose any other record retention or access requirements upon recipients.
(b) Financial records, supporting documents, statistical records, and all other records pertinent to an award shall be retained for a period of three years from the date of submission of the final expenditure report or, for awards that are renewed quarterly or annually, from the date of the submission of the quarterly or annual financial report, as authorized by the Federal awarding agency. The only exceptions are the following.
(1) If any litigation, claim, or audit is started before the expiration of the 3-year period, the records shall be retained until all litigation, claims or audit findings involving the records have been resolved and final action taken.
(2) Records for real property and equipment acquired with Federal funds shall be retained for 3 years after final disposition.
(3) When records are transferred to or maintained by the Federal awarding agency, the 3-year retention requirement is not applicable to the recipient.
(4) Indirect cost rate proposals, cost allocation plans, etc. as specified in paragraph (g) of this section.
(c) Copies of original records may be substituted for the original records if authorized by the Federal awarding agency.
(d) The Federal awarding agency shall request transfer of certain records to its custody from recipients when it determines that the records possess long-term retention value. However, in order to avoid duplicate recordkeeping, a Federal awarding agency may make arrangements for recipients to retain any records that are continuously needed for joint use.
(e) The Federal awarding agency, the Inspector General, Comptroller General of the United States, or any of their duly authorized representatives, have the right of timely and unrestricted access to any books, documents, papers, or other records of recipients that are pertinent to the awards, in order to make audits, examinations, excerpts, transcripts and copies of such documents. This right also includes timely and reasonable access to a recipient's personnel for the purpose of interview and discussion related to such documents. The rights of access in this paragraph are not limited to the required retention period, but shall last as long as records are retained.
(f) Unless required by statute, no Federal awarding agency shall place restrictions on receipts (27) that limit public access to the records of recipients that are pertinent to an award, except when the Federal awarding agency can demonstrate that such records shall be kept confidential and would have been exempted from disclosure pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act (5 U.S.C. 552) if the records had belonged to the Federal awarding agency.
(g) Indirect cost rate proposals, cost allocations plans, etc. Paragraphs (g)(1) and (g)(2) of this section apply to the following types of documents, and their supporting records: indirect cost rate computations or proposals, cost allocation plans, and any similar accounting computations of the rate at which a particular group of costs is chargeable (such as computer usage chargeback rates or composite fringe benefit rates).
(1) If submitted for negotiation. If the recipient submits to the Federal awarding agency or the subrecipient submits to the recipient the proposal, plan, or other computation to form the basis for negotiation of the rate, then the 3-year retention period for its supporting records starts on the date of such submission.
(2) If not submitted for negotiation. If the recipient is not required to submit to the Federal awarding agency or the subrecipient is not required to submit to the recipient the proposal, plan, or other computation for negotiation purposes, then the 3-year retention period for the proposal, plan, or other computation and its supporting records starts at the end of the fiscal year (or other accounting period) covered by the proposal, plan, or other computation.
REGULATIONS RELATING TO EQUIPMENT AND SUPPLIES
7 CFR 3016.32: Equipment
(a) Title. Subject to the obligations and conditions set forth in this section, title to equipment acquired under a grant or subgrant will vest upon acquisition in the grantee or subgrantee respectively.
(b) States. A State will use, manage and dispose of equipment acquired under a grant by the State in accordance with State laws and procedures. Other grantees and subgrantees will follow paragraphs (c) through (e) of this section.
(c) Use. (1) Equipment shall be used by the grantee or subgrantee in the program or projects for which it was acquired as long as needed whether or not the project or program continues to be supported by Federal funds. When no longer needed for the original program or project, the equipment may be used in other activities currently or previously supported by a Federal agency.(2) The grantee or subgrantee shall also make equipment available for use on other projects or programs currently or previously supported by the Federal Government, providing such use will not interfere with the work on the projects or program for which it was originally acquired. First preference for other use shall be given to other programs or projects supported by the awarding agency. User fees should be considered if appropriate.(3) Notwithstanding the encouragement in paragraph 3016.25(a) to earn program income, the grantee or subgrantee must not use equipment acquired with grant funds to provide services for a fee to compete unfairly with private companies that provide equivalent services, unless specifically permitted or contemplated by Federal statute.(4) When acquiring replacement equipment, the grantee or subgrantee may use the equipment to be replaced as a trade-in or sell the property and use the proceeds to offset the cost of the replacement property, subject to the approval of the awarding agency.
(d) Management Requirements. Procedures for managing equipment (including replacement equipment) whether acquired in whole or in part with grant funds, until disposition takes place will, as a minimum, meet the following requirements:(1) Property records must be maintained that include a description of the property, a serial number or other identification number, the source of the property, who holds title, the acquisition date and cost of the property, percentage of Federal participation in the cost of property, the location, use and condition of the property, and any ultimate disposition data including the date and sale price of the property.(2) A physical inventory of the property must be taken and the results reconciled with the property records at least once every two years.(3) A control system must be developed to ensure adequate safeguards to prevent loss, damage, or theft of the property. Any loss, damage or theft shall be investigated.(4) Adequate maintenance procedures must be developed to keep property in good condition.(5) If the grantee or subgrantee is authorized to sell the property, proper sales procedures must be established to ensure the highest possible returns.
(e) Disposition. When original or replacement equipment acquired under a grant or subgrant is no longer needed for the original project or program or for other activities currently or previously supported by a Federal agency, disposal of the equipment will be made as follows:(1) Items of equipment with a current per unit fair market value of less than $5,000 may be retained, sold or otherwise disposed of with no further obligation to the awarding agency.(2) Items of equipment with a current per unit fair market value in excess of $5,000 may be retained or sold and the awarding agency shall have a right to an amount calculated by multiplying the current market value or proceeds from sale by the awarding agency's share of the equipment.(3) In cases where a grantee or subgrantee fails to take appropriate disposal actions, the awarding agency may direct the grantee or subgrantee to take excess and disposition actions.
(f) Federal Equipment. In the event a grantee or subgrantee is provided federally owned equipment:(1) Title will remain vested in the Federal Government.(2) Grantees or subgrantees will manage the equipment in accordance with Federal agency rules and procedures, and submit an annual inventory listing.(3) When the equipment is no longer needed, the grantee or subgrantee will request disposal instructions from the Federal agency.
(g) Right to transfer title. The Federal awarding agency may reserve the right to transfer title to the Federal government or a third party named by the awarding agency when such a third party is otherwise eligible under existing statutes. Such transfers shall be subject to the following standards:(1) The property shall be identified in the grant or otherwise made known to the grantee in writing.(2) The Federal awarding agency shall issue disposition instructions within 120 calendar days after the end of the Federal support of the project for which it was acquired. If the Federal awarding agency fails to issue disposition instructions within the 120 calendar-day period the grantee shall follow .32e.(3) When title to equipment is transferred, the grantee shall pay an amount calculated by applying the percentage of participation in the purchase to the current fair market value of the property.
7 CFR 3016.33: Supplies
(a) Title. Title to supplies under a grant or subgrant will vest, upon acquisition, in the grantee or subgrantee respectively.
(b) Disposition. If there is a residual inventory of unused supplies exceeding $5,000 in total aggregate fair market value upon termination or completion of the award, and if the supplies are not needed for any other federally sponsored programs or projects, the grantee or subgrantee shall compensate the awarding agency for its share.
REGULATIONS RELATING TO EQUIPMENT AND SUPPLIES ACQUIRED BY
(a) Title to equipment acquired by a recipient with Federal funds shall vest in the recipient, subject to conditions of this section.
(b) The recipient shall not use equipment acquired with Federal funds to provide services to non-Federal outside organizations for a fee that is less than private companies charge for equivalent services, unless specifically authorized by Federal statute, for as long as the Federal Government retains an interest in the equipment.
(c) The recipient shall use the equipment in the project or program for which it was acquired as long as needed, whether or not the project or program continues to be supported by Federal funds and shall not encumber the property without approval of the Federal awarding agency. When no longer needed for the original project or program, the recipient shall use the equipment in connection with its other federally sponsored activities, in the following order of priority:(1) Activities sponsored by the Federal-awarding agency which funded the original project, then(2) Activities sponsored by other Federal awarding agencies.
(d) During the time that equipment is used on the project or program for which it was acquired, the recipient shall make it available for use on other projects or programs if such other use will not interfere with the work on the project or program for which the equipment was originally acquired. First preference for such other use shall be given to other projects or programs sponsored by the Federal awarding agency that financed the equipment; second preference shall be given to projects or programs sponsored by other Federal awarding agencies. If the equipment is owned by the Federal Government, use on other activities not sponsored by the Federal Government shall be permissible if authorized by the Federal awarding agency. User charges shall be treated as program income.
(e) When acquiring replacement equipment, the recipient may use the equipment to be replaced as trade-in or sell the equipment and use the proceeds to offset the costs of the replacement equipment subject to the approval of the Federal awarding agency.
(f) The recipient's property management standards for equipment acquired with Federal funds and federally-owned equipment shall include all of the following.(1) Equipment records shall be maintained accurately and shall include the following information.(i) A description of the equipment.(ii) Manufacturer's serial number, model number, Federal stock number, national stock number, or other identification number.(iii) Source of the equipment, including the award number.(iv) Whether title vests in the recipient or the Federal Government.(v) Acquisition date (or date received, if the equipment was furnished by the Federal Government) and cost.(vi) Information from which one can calculate the percentage of Federal participation in the cost of the equipment (not applicable to equipment furnished by the Federal Government).(vii) Location and condition of the equipment and the date the information was reported.(viii) Unit acquisition cost.(ix) Ultimate disposition data, including date of disposal and sales price or the method used to determine current fair market value where a recipient compensates the Federal awarding agency for its share.(2) Equipment owned by the Federal Government shall be identified to indicate Federal ownership.(3) A physical inventory of the equipment shall be taken and the results reconciled with the equipment records at least once every two years. Any differences between quantities determined by the physical inspection and those shown in the accounting records shall be investigated to determine the causes of the difference. The recipient shall, in connection with the inventory, verify the existence, current utilization, and continued need for the equipment.(4) A control system shall be in effect to ensure adequate safeguards to prevent loss, damage, or theft of the equipment. Any loss, damage, or theft of equipment shall be investigated and fully documented; if the equipment was owned by the Federal Government, the recipient shall promptly notify the Federal awarding agency.(5) Adequate maintenance procedures shall be implemented to keep the equipment in good condition.(6) Where the recipient is authorized or required to sell the equipment, proper sales procedures shall be established which provide for competition to the extent practicable and result in the highest possible return.
(g) When the recipient no longer needs the equipment, the equipment may be used for other activities in accordance with the following standards. For equipment with a current per unit fair market value of $5000 or more, the recipient may retain the equipment for other uses provided that compensation is made to the original Federal awarding agency or its successor. The amount of compensation shall be computed by applying the percentage of Federal participation in the cost of the original project or program to the current fair market value of the equipment. If the recipient has no need for the equipment, the recipient shall request disposition instructions from the Federal awarding agency. The Federal awarding agency shall determine whether the equipment can be used to meet the agency's requirements. If no requirement exists within that agency, the availability of the equipment shall be reported to the General Services Administration by the Federal awarding agency to determine whether a requirement for the equipment exists in other Federal agencies. The Federal awarding agency shall issue instructions to the recipient no later than 120 calendar days after the recipient's request and the following procedures shall govern.(1) If so instructed or if disposition instructions are not issued within 120 calendar days after the recipient's request, the recipient shall sell the equipment and reimburse the Federal awarding agency an amount computed by applying to the sales proceeds the percentage of Federal participation in the cost of the original project or program. However, the recipient shall be permitted to deduct and retain from the Federal share $500 or ten percent of the proceeds, whichever is less, for the recipient's selling and handling expenses.(2) If the recipient is instructed to ship the equipment elsewhere, the recipient shall be reimbursed by the Federal Government by an amount which is computed by applying the percentage of the recipients participation in the cost of the original project or program to the current fair market value of the equipment, plus any reasonable shipping or interim storage costs incurred.(3) If the recipient is instructed to otherwise dispose of the equipment, the recipient shall be reimbursed by the Federal awarding agency for such costs incurred in its disposition.(4) The Federal awarding agency may reserve the right to transfer the title to the Federal Government or to a third party named by the Federal Government when such third party is otherwise eligible under existing statutes. Such transfer shall be subject to the following standards.(i) The equipment shall be appropriately identified in the award or otherwise made known to the recipient in writing.(ii) The Federal awarding agency shall issue disposition instructions within 120 calendar days after receipt of a final inventory. The final inventory shall list all equipment acquired with grant funds and federally-owned equipment. If the Federal awarding agency fails to issue disposition instructions within the 120 calendar-day period, the recipient shall apply the standards of this section, as appropriate.(iii) When the Federal awarding agency exercises its right to take title, the equipment shall be subject to the provisions for federally-owned equipment.
3019.35 Supplies and other expendable property.
(a) Title to supplies and other expendable property shall vest in the recipient upon acquisition. If there is a residual inventory of unused supplies exceeding $5000 in total aggregate value upon termination or completion of the project or program and the supplies are not needed for any other federally-sponsored project or program, the recipient shall retain the supplies for use on non-Federal sponsored activities or sell them, but shall, in either case, compensate the Federal Government for its share. The amount of compensation shall be computed in the same manner as for equipment.
(b) The recipient shall not use supplies acquired with Federal funds to provide services to non-Federal outside organizations for a fee that is less than private companies charge for equivalent services, unless specifically authorized by Federal statute as long as the Federal Government retains an interest in the supplies.
SAMPLE IDENTIFICATION DECALS FOR VFA PROPERTY
OBTAINING PROGRAM SUPPORT
A. State Fire Advisory Councils
State fire advisory councils constitute a concept to help improve rural fire protection within States. States creating councils have found them to be valuable in securing public support, sharing information among cooperators and advising the State forestry agency's fire administrators concerning the delivery of equipment and services. While councils can take different forms from State to State, they serve similar needs.
State forestry administrators should not consider councils to be law- making or policy dictating groups. Rather, a Council is a group of people forming a network to bring needs from the "customers" and send program information back. The Council is a connection between the State/Federal program and the intended recipients. Without it, an unrecognized vacuum often exists.
The design of the Council is critical. The design must meet the needs of the customers in a particular State and must consider both the demographics and socio-political characteristics of the State and the concerns and abilities of the members involved. Councils are not normally politically empowered by State legislatures. However, they can be, as in the case of Alabama, given non-profit corporation status and serve as a focus for funding and drafting of legislation on issues involving the fire service. The Texas group, known as the Texas Rural Fire Advisory Council, offers both a simple and effective model that can serve as a basis for developing other State advisory councils.
The Texas Charter states the Council shall be made up of people "interested and involved in rural fire protection matters." Keep in mind that many States have no mandated fire protection laws for areas outside of incorporated city limits. Other States may or may not have this problem, but the scope of this Council is usually limited to rural matters.
The Charter goes on to explain that citizens, elected officials, agency representatives, as well as firefighters, can be included on the Council. Placing only fire people on the Council is like singing to the choir. People are needed who can gain support for new ideas and help initiate them both locally and on the State level.
A partial list of people who might be suitable to serve on a State fire council might include:
All members should have at least one primary interest. They must have a desire to help improve fire protection and safety within the rural areas of the State.
What Does a Rural Fire Advisory Council Do?
The Charter spells out suggested areas of activity. These fall within the areas of analysis, recommendations and promotion.
All activities undertaken by the Council relate directly to the State forestry agency's assistance to departments and communities. In certain areas, such as training, equipment and education, there is some overlap with other State entities. It may be necessary to consider involving such groups as a part of the Council to insure that all programs take into consideration outside concerns.
State fire advisory councils have accomplished work such as the following:
All of the above accomplishments occurred through Council interaction with the State forestry agency and other outside groups interested in improving fire protection.
How Should a Council be organized?
The Council can be a loosely organized group led by a Chairman, Vice-Chairman and Secretary. The Texas Charter provides that the Council will meet quarterly to discuss issues effecting the State fire program, decide courses of action and formulate reports. In some cases, the group will form working teams to accomplish specific activities and to prepare reports. While the Council may have no mandated legal responsibility, it can vote to recommend or support specific actions. All members, organizations and agencies, including the State Forest Service, have only one vote. There are no proxies.
Meetings are open to the public and room, meals and some other travel expenses are reimbursed to Council members.
Other organizations, such as the Alabama Fire Institute, have chosen to incorporate and have an Executive Director and Staff. The "Council" is a non-profit corporation allowing the "institute" to raise funds through donations and to represent the fire service at both the State and Federal levels.
Getting Started in Your State
While the problems may be similar, every State will have some different matters to consider. These may dictate a change in the way the Charter is written and who is asked to serve. Consider questions such as:
When you have answered these questions, then answer the following questions:
When these questions have been answered a State forestry official should invite prospective members to an orientation. Since most invitees will not know everything about the State forestry programs a general discussion of the programs is recommended. Take as much time as needed to discuss topics such as forest management, fire control, pest control, urban forestry, etc. While some of these items may not relate specifically to the fire program matters at hand, they will help those present to understand the State's responsibilities as a resource management agency.
During subsequent meetings council officers should be elected and a charter and bylaws should be developed. The State forestry agency should facilitate this process by obtaining input from Council members and drafting and finalizing the documents.
The State forestry agency, as the sponsoring agency, will need to facilitate meetings and to keep the Council running. The objectives should be to encourage the flow of ideas and to strengthen the services, which are delivered.
B. Press Releases
Twenty Years of Cooperative Fire Protection:
Ninety percent of the Nation's fire departments protect communities of less than 10,000 population. Since 1975, the Volunteer Fire Assistance Program has helped to provide equipment, training, and organizational assistance to over 20,000 volunteer fire departments. The Program has a proud track record. Since its humble beginnings, Congress has funded VFA at about 3.5 million dollars annually. While the returns from this program can only be estimated States like Oklahoma and Alabama claim over $30 million dollars are returned to taxpayers in the form of reduced insurance premiums and fire losses. A conservative estimate of dollar savings for the entire country could exceed 100 million dollars.
VFA funding is leveraged through cost-sharing with local communities. VFA is not a welfare program, but a self-help initiative. The Silver Grove, Kentucky Fire Department states, "Without this help rural fire departments like ours will not have the equipment to respond to the growing rural/urban interface fire problem." The Winchuck Rural Fire Protection District says, "Without question, some of our projects and activities would have been delayed or eliminated without the VFA support. It is a very important and productive program, well worth the $56,500 allocated for the entire State of Oregon."
Every Approved Application Tells a New Story
Each time an VFA application is approved another project is funded and there is a new story to tell. In 1995 over 7,700 fire departments and training academies were awarded financial assistance nationwide. This help permits accomplishment of many types of projects. These include improvements to existing equipment, cost-sharing of new equipment, purchase of safety clothing and equipment, implementation of improved technology such as Class "A" foam, training of firefighters, enhanced fire prevention programs and development of static water sources. Every project contributes to improved fire protection. These are important stories that need to be told. The assistance can translate into reduced insurance premiums, improved fire protection, and safer communities. Good fire protection helps to stabilize the community and to make it a place where people will want to live and work. However, many citizens and policy makers don't understand the plight of the rural fire department. If information about the VFA Program and the process for selection of fire departments to receive financial assistance is not shared, the program will lose effectiveness. People will not support what they do not understand. Success is 20% doing and 80% communicating. The continued success of VFA depends on telling the community about the Program.
There are Many Ways to Tell the Story
Standard News Release: This is a tried and true method for sharing the purpose and benefits of the VFA Program. The points covered are generic and clearly explain the purposes of the Program, the sources of the funding, and how communities apply for assistance. This type of release can prove helpful to the local newspaper by providing facts about the VFA Program from which the paper can write feature articles; or it provides material which small staffs of local newspapers can print as is or with only limited editing. If required by State's policy, press releases should be reviewed, distributed and coordinated by the Public Affairs Office. Delivery of equipment such as portable pumps, safety clothing and radios; firefighters installing dry hydrants or cisterns or conducting fire prevention activities (especially during Fire Prevention Week), and converting FEPP vehicles to fire engines are all newsworthy items. Photographs, which may be taken by State personnel or firefighters, enhance news releases.
Promote a Feature Story in the Local Newspaper: Newspapers are interested in newsworthy material. Small rural newspapers, particularly, are always looking for a story to tell. Usually, all that is needed is a phone call to the editor to arrange an interview. The story will often appear on the front page of local papers. It is critical that the sources of VFA funding, uses to which the funding will be put by the fire department and the general timeframe for projects be included in the story. A local forester or public relations specialist can set up a reminder file showing approved projects, timeframes for completion and phone numbers of key contacts. The fire department should be contacted and a local fire official (preferably the Fire Chief) requested to participate in the interview prior to contacting the newspaper. Then the newspaper should be contacted and arrangements made for the interview. Any prior standard release can be used as background material for the reporter.
Arrange Presentations: Fire department activities are usually of interest to the local community. When a fire department obtains fire apparatus, such as a new or used pumper or FEPP vehicle, photographs showing apparatus dealers or local State forestry personnel, as appropriate, presenting the keys to the Fire Chief and other local dignitaries are excellent publicity. Photographs, with accompanying newspaper articles, of State forestry people presenting a large replica of the VFA check to local officials are also effective in publicizing the VFA Program. Local forestry personnel can provide some of the thrust that is sometimes needed to arrange these presentations.
Involve Dignitaries: The Fire Chief can arrange a time when dignitaries can attend a special presentation concerning VFA assistance given the department. It is well to have a local forestry employee prepared to take photographs in case the newspaper does not provide a photographer. The State employee can take pictures and provide them to the newspaper along with captions explaining the contents of photographs and the names of the persons shown. A standard news release could also be provided to the reporter. This material should also be retained in a file in the local State forestry office.
Send Clippings to the "Right People:" When the story hits the press, don't let it slip away. Take the time to clip it, and send it to people who may have an interest in it. Influential people, State Firefighters' Associations and organizations such as a State Association of Counties will be interested in such stories. It is desirable to send a letter with the clipping, preferably signed by the Fire Chief or Mayor, explaining what the VFA Program is and what it has done for the community. Clippings and their associated transmittal letters maintain public awareness and can, over time, build support for the Program. Oklahoma was able to secure enough support in the State Legislature that State dollars were appropriated to match the Federal dollars. Missouri Department of Conservation committed more than $200,000 of State funding in fiscal year 1994 to over-match the $100,000 of Federal VFA funding provided to the State. This additional funding greatly enhanced the VFA Program. Since both the State and Federal dollars were required to be matched, Missouri had a $600,000 program.
Share Information About Your Agency with Local Fire Departments: Since a rural fire department receives subgrants only at irregular intervals, it is a good idea for forestry personnel to maintain contact with fire departments which have received financial assistance in the past. These contacts can be preplanned for particular intervals such as quarterly, semi-annually or annually. Letters can be sent to departments which provide information on how many fire departments were assisted, how much money was expended, types of projects which were conducted and funding outlook for the Program. Much of this information is available since it must be collected by the State, anyway, in order to complete the Federal VFA Report. Safety notes and tips, as well as other pertinent information, can be included in these letters. The letters help the State forestry department to maintain contact with rural fire departments. Mailing lists are also kept current.
Keep Stories and Records
Numbers are fine, but they don't tell the entire story. It is important to know what assistance was given as well as the value of that assistance to rural communities.
A file folder should be set up for each fire department assisted. This file should include the years financial assistance was received, the dollars awarded, types of projects undertaken, photos, clippings, supporting items, thank you letters and other pertinent information. A good picture or an effective letter can make a big difference in educating influential people about VFA. The information can be used in official agency reports, contacts with key people, or merely to document accomplishments. When a community receives a reduction in insurance rates this reduction should be documented as VFA funding may have played a role in this reduction; as when a community moves from a class ten Insurance Services Office (ISO) rating to a nine rating, or from a nine to an eight, etc. Statistical data and other information can be computerized for ease of access and updating. This information can be retrieved and combined with newspaper clippings, photographs and other documentation to meet short notice requests for information from elected officials and others. Good record keeping provides a powerful tool for informing the public of the benefits of, not only the VFA Program, but other assistance provided by the State Forester.
The Bottom Line
The story that is not told is not sold. We can all do our work, and do it well, but program survival dictates that we show the value of what we do. The time spent educating communities concerning VFA can foster the continuance of the program and will inform the public of the importance of the role State Foresters play in protecting rural communities.
SAMPLE STANDARD NEWS RELEASE
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
RURALVILLE FIRE DEPARTMENT RECEIVES FIRE DEPARTMENT GRANT
The Ruralville volunteer fire department has received State approval for a Volunteer Fire Assistance (VFA) Grant this year, according to Department of Natural Resources Director Joe Bundersmooch.
The grants, made available through the Federal Cooperative Forestry Assistance Act, will total $91,000 Statewide this year. Ruralville will receive $3,000 of the total. Funding for VFA comes from the USDA Forest Service. The Forest Service then awards a grant to the State Department of Natural Resources, Division of Forestry, which administers the Program and approves the grants to local fire departments. "The money is used to organize, train and equip fire departments for the purposes of preventing and suppressing fires in rural areas," said Bundersmooch. "This is a great way for the Division of Forestry to encourage volunteer fire departments to strive for improved services." According to Fire Chief "Smokey" Firestomper, Ruralville will purchase three handheld radios to improve communication at fires and other emergencies. Eligible applicants serve rural areas and communities with a population of 10,000 or fewer inhabitants. Fire departments approved for funding must match at least 50 percent of the total project cost with local funding.
The VFA Program, funded since 1975, has provided approximately $2,100,000 for projects throughout the State. Fire departments interested in applying for grants should contact Bundersmooch at: Division of Forestry, 99966 Loose Rock Road, Puckerlip, EP 00000. Telephone: 555-555-1234.
DEFINITIONS AND ACRONYMS
Acquisition Cost -- The net invoice unit price of an item of personal property including the cost of modifications, attachments, accessories, or auxiliary apparatus necessary to make the property usable for the purpose for which it was acquired.
Assistance -- Any Federal assistance that is technical or financial in nature given to a State or fire department in a State.
Awarding Agency -- The agency that administers the VFA Program. This could be the USDA Forest Service or the State Forester in the case of subgrants to fire departments.
Cognizant Agency -- The Federal agency assigned by the Office of Management and Budget to carry out audit responsibilities. The Federal agency providing the most funding to a State is usually designated the cognizant agency. The agency differs from State to State.
Cooperative Agreement -- A written agreement between the State Forester and a rural fire protection provider or between the State Forester and Forest Service that lists terms and conditions of cooperation.
For institutions of higher education and non-profit corporations such as most volunteer fire departments: Tangible non-expendable personal property having a useful life of more than one year and an acquisition cost of $5,000 or more per unit. However, consistent with recipient policy, lower limits may be established.
For State governmental entities such as the State Forester's office and local governmental entities such as municipal fire departments and fire districts: Tangible, non-expendable, personal property having a useful life of more than one year and an acquisition cost of $5,000 or more per unit.
Fair Market Value -- A selling price based on actual worth, sometimes negotiable between the transferring Federal agency and the State Forestry agency.
Federal Excess Personal Property -- Any personal property under the control of a Federal agency that is not required for the agency in the discharge of its responsibilities as determined by the agency head. Such property can be loaned to States or RFD's for fire program needs but the Federal Government retains ownership.
Grant -- An award of financial assistance, including cooperative agreements, in the form of money, or personal property in lieu of money, by the Federal Government to an eligible grantee. The term does not include technical assistance, which provides services instead of money, or other assistance in the form of revenue sharing, loans, loan guarantees, interest subsidies, insurance, or direct appropriations. Also, the term does not include assistance, such as a fellowship or other lump sum award, which the grantee is not required to account for.
Grantee -- The government or other legal entity to which a grant is awarded and which is accountable for the use of the financial assistance provided. The grantee is the entire legal entity even if only a particular component of the entity is designated in the grant award document.
In-kind Contributions -- The grantee's non-monetary matching portion of Federal financial assistance that has measurable value and is donated or volunteered, such as providing training instructors for a fire course. These contributions may be used by communities when cash is not available for their share of matching funds.
Matching Funds -- The grantee's portion of any financial assistance. VFA grantees/subgrantees must provide 50% or more of the total cost of the funded assistance. Matching funds may be in the form of cash or in-kind contributions. Sometimes called "cost-share" funds.
Municipality -- As used in this Guide, an incorporated entity such as a city, borough or village.
Personal Property -- Any property which is not land, buildings or structures, including any permanently attached fixtures, appurtenances, and improvements of any kind located thereon.
RCFP -- Rural Community Fire Protection. A cooperative Fire Protection program, through which financial and technical assistance in organizing, training and equipping fire departments was made available to rural communities. Effective with Fiscal Year 1999 budget structure, RCFP was programmatically renamed to Volunteer Fire Assistance (VFA).
Recipient -- A State or local government, federally recognized Indian Tribe, university, non-profit, for-profit or other organization that is a recipient of grants or cooperative agreements from a Federal agency. In this Guide the term is used interchangeably with "grantee."
RFPC -- Rural Fire Prevention and Control. RFPC was a Cooperative Fire Protection program which provided technical and financial assistance to state cooperators. Effective fiscal year 1999, RFPC was programmatically renamed to State Fire Assistance (SFA)
Rural Community -- A single city, town, village, borough, or community with a population of 10,000 or less.
Rural Fire Department -- A recognized organization providing primary fire protection to a rural area and/or to a rural community with a population of 10,000 or less.
State Fire Assistance (SFA) -- A Cooperative Fire Protection program, which provides technical and financial assistance to state cooperators. State Fire Assistance (SFA) was formally known as the Rural Fire Prevention and Control (RFPC) program. In the Fiscal Year 1999 budget structure, RFPC was programmatically renamed to the State Fire Assistance program.
Subgrant -- An award of financial assistance in the form of money, or personal property in lieu of money, made under a grant by a grantee to an eligible sub- grantee. The term includes financial assistance when provided by contractual legal agreement, but does not include procurement purchases, nor does it include any form of assistance which is excluded from the definition of grant.
Subgrantee -- The government or other legal entity to which a subgrant is awarded and which is accountable to the grantee for the use of financial assistance or equipment and supplies provided.
Subrecipient -- An entity which receives subgrants or cooperative agreements from a recipient. A subgrantee.
Supplies -- Tangible personal property other than "equipment" as defined above. (Original acquisition cost less than $5000).
USDA -- United States Department of Agriculture. A department under the Executive Branch of the Federal Government of which the Forest Service is an agency.
Volunteer Firefighter -- As used in this Guide, an active member of a firefighting organization. Rates for volunteer services, for cost-share purposes, shall be consistent with those paid for similar work in paid fire departments in the labor market in which the recipient competes. Such compensation includes fringe benefits, which are reasonable, allowable and allocable.
Volunteer Fire Assistance (VFA) -- A cooperative Fire Protection program, through which financial and technical assistance in organizing, training and equipping fire departments is made available to rural communities. Volunteer Fire Assistance (VFA) program was formally known as the Rural Community Fire Protection (RCFP) program. In the Fiscal Year 1999 budget structurevfa def, RCFP was programmatically renamed to the Volunteer Fire Assistance program.