Rural Fire Assistance

Rural Fire Assistance

Each year, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) provides Rural Fire Assistance (RFA) grants to neighboring community fire departments to enhance local wildfire protection, purchase equipment, and train volunteer firefighters. Service fire staff also assist directly with community projects. These efforts reduce the risk to human life and better permit FWS firefighters to interact and work with community fire organizations when fighting wildfires. The Department of the Interior (DOI) receives an appropriated budget each year for an RFA grant program. The maximum award per grant is $20,000. The DOI assistance program targets rural and volunteer fire departments that routinely help fight fire on or near DOI lands.

In the wake of the 2000 fire season, Congress recognized that safe and effective protection of the Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) requires close coordination among local, state, tribal, and federal firefighting resources, and that rural and volunteer fire departments responding to wildland fires needed to improve overall firefighting safety and augment their fire protection capabilities. The RFA program was funded at $10 million per year from 2001 - 2005, with FWS receiving about 12 percent of the total program funding. RFA funds are used to purchase equipment, including personal protective equipment (PPE), communications equipment, firefighting tools, and water hauling equipment. Funds are also used by rural fire departments (RFDs) for training and prevention programs.

FWS RFA Results and Funding Levels
Fiscal Year
RFDs Assisted
Award Amount
2001
230
$1,237,000
2002
357
$1,222,618
2003
265
$1,109,254
2004
N/A
$1,266,784
2005
258
$1,274,585
2006
181
$1,502,385

Along with RFDs, the FWS has benefited greatly from this program. The majority of FWS land units do not have dedicated wildland fire staff, and so depend on RFDs to assist with wildland fire protection. The RFA program has allowed the Service to assist rural departments to increase the level of preparedness and safety, improving fire protection on both national wildlife refuges and surrounding communities.

FAQs about the RFA Program

Read about some FWS Rural Fire Assistance projects.....

Last Updated: 5/1/2009