Contact: Bonnie Strawser - 252-473-1131
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Awards Rural Fire Assistance Grants in Coastal North Carolina
Mike Bryant, Project Leader for the NC Coastal Plain National Wildlife Refuge Complex, is pleased to announce the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has awarded $65,040 in grant funding to five local area volunteer fire departments as part of the Department of Interior Rural Fire Assistance Program.
Recipients are the Swan Quarter, Tyrrell, Creswell and Lake Phelps Volunteer Fire Departments and the Carova Beach Fire and Rescue Squad. The grant monies will help purchase wildland fire equipment such as specialized clothing and gear, hand tools, hoses, and radios. A 10% match from the fire departments as cash or in-kind services is required by the grant program.
“We are pleased that all the Fish & Wildlife Service cooperator applicants this year received funding,” reports local program coordinator Kelley Van Druten. “These departments are crucial players in protecting communities from wildfires that may burn on or around national wildlife refuges.”
The importance of having fully-equipped cooperators was especially evident during the 2008 Evans Road Fire that burned onto Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge and blackened a total 41,060 acres in Hyde, Tyrrell and Washington Counties. “Without the help of our cooperators, including many volunteer fire departments, we would not have been able to provide adequate structure protection to all the communities threatened by the wildfire,” stated Van Druten.
Tyrrell Volunteer Fire Department Fire Chief Johnny Spencer said, “We have been able to purchase wildland firefighting Personal Protective Equipment, portable pumps and safety gear through these grants. That gear has come in handy on numerous wildfires in the county, including the Evans Road Fire.” The department plans to use part of this year’s funding toward the purchase of a new slip-on unit, a combination water tank and pump that can slip into the bed of a pickup truck.
“The Rural Fire Assistance program allows us to reach out in a very tangible way to help our neighbors,” added Bryant. Since 2001, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has provided $391,198 in funding to 16 rural fire departments across 8 counties in eastern North Carolina.
Mopping up after a wildfire, members of the Tyrrell Volunteer Fire Department used a chainsaw and wore specialized wildland firefighting clothing purchased with Rural Fire Assistance funds. The jumpsuits are made of a fire resistant material that is much cooler and lighter to wear on wildfires than the department's structural firefighting gear. Photo Credit: Tyrrell Volunteer Fire Department.