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Resources for Volunteer Fire Departments

There are several federal programs and grants administered through the DCNR Bureau of Forestry that are available as resources to help volunteer fire departments related to wildland fires.

Federal Excess Property Program

Under the Federal Excess Property Program (FEPP), the DCNR Bureau of Forestry acquires excess federal equipment and assigns that equipment to rural fire departments.

The federal government maintains title to property made available through Federal Excess Property Program, and therefore the equipment is considered on loan to the receiving fire department.

Only equipment used for fire suppression activities is available through this program. DCNR will license Federal Excess Property Program vehicles for participating fire departments.

Department of Defense Firefighter Property Program 

The DCNR Bureau of Forestry acquires excess military equipment and transfers the equipment to fire departments and emergency service agencies. A certificate to obtain title will be made available to recipients of the equipment once the equipment is converted and ready to be placed in service. Fire departments are responsible for licensing these vehicles.

For more information about these federal property programs, contact the local forest district office in which your organization is located.

Volunteer Fire Assistance Grants

The U.S. Department of Agriculture provides financial, technical, and other assistance to state officials in cooperative efforts to organize, train, and equip local forces in rural areas or communities under 10,000 in population to prevent, control, and suppress fires which threaten:

  • Human life
  • Livestock
  • Wildlife
  • Crops
  • Pastures
  • Orchards
  • Woodlands
  • Farmsteads
  • Other improvements in rural areas

The key objectives of this program are to save lives and protect property in unprotected or inadequately protected rural areas. Therefore, the selection of the participating agencies must be based on vulnerability and the adequacy of existing fire protection.

This is a cost-share program. Financial assistance on any project during any fiscal year cannot exceed 50 percent of the actual expenditures -- including expenditures of local, public, and private nonprofit organizations participating in the agreement. The maximum grant for 2023 is $12,500.

See the 2023 Volunteer Fire Assistance Grants (PDF) for a list of approved grantees from 2023.

Pennsylvania fire company officers can apply for Volunteer Fire Assistance (VFA) grants using DCNR’s Grant Portal. Check the directions for the VFA grant application (PDF) before beginning the process.

Volunteer Fire Assistance Grant Eligibility

Grants can be used for:

  • Purchase of wildfire suppression equipment
  • Wildfire protective gear
  • Mobile or portable radios
  • Installation of dry hydrants
  • Wildfire prevention and mitigation
  • Wildfire training
  • Certain projects involving the conversion and maintenance of federal excess vehicles received from the DCNR Bureau of Forestry and used for fire suppression

A priority will be placed on projects that include the purchase of wildland fire suppression equipment and wildland fire protective gear. Priority also will be given to fire companies which have established goals and objectives and have developed plans to meet them.

Grants CANNOT be used for:

  • Purchase of structural fire equipment or protective gear
  • Supply hose larger than 2.5 inches in diameter
  • Structures
  • Routine maintenance of vehicles not received from the DCNR Bureau of Forestry
  • Medical services
  • Ambulance services
  • Fire police equipment and gear
  • Search and rescue equipment and gear
  • Unmanned Aerial Systems

Federal regulations require that all single item purchases costing more than $5,000 be tracked; therefore, purchases of items costing this amount will be limited to new or used 4x4 vehicles, which will be utilized as a Type 5/6/7 Wildland Engine -- as defined by the National Wildfire Coordinating Group (PDF) -- with a total cost of $50,000 or less, slip-on/skid units, pumps, and UTVs only.

Due to high demand and limited funding, there is a five-year waiting period between the years a fire company is eligible to receive grants. However, if a fire company received a $7,500 grant or less in the last five years, they are eligible for assistance one additional time -- as long as the two-year total does not exceed the maximum grant established for the program each year.

Since planning is the key to the efficient and effective use of equipment, personnel, and organization, priority will be given to fire companies which have established goals and objectives and have developed plans to meet them.


If you have any questions, contact the DCNR Bureau of Forestry’s Division of Forest Fire Protection at 717-787-2925.