NVFC Asks Congress to Provide Adequate Funding for Wildland Fire Programs

The National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC) recently signed onto two letters to House and Senate appropriators asking that they adequately fund federal programs related to fighting wildland fires. On March 19, the NVFC joined 31 other organizations in  requesting level funding for the U.S. Forest Service and the Department of the Interior, which maintain a hazardous fuels program that is the primary source of funding used to reduce wildfire risk on Federal lands. The letter also asks for flat funding for the State Fire Assistance program, which helps states support local wildland firefighting preparedness, capacity building, and wildland fire mitigation. The President’s FY 2013 budget request proposes cutting funding for each of these programs.

The NVFC, along with the Congressional Fire Services Institute and International Association of Fire Chiefs, sent a separate  letter to the appropriators asking them to restore funding for programs that provide matching grants to local fire departments to purchase equipment and training so that they are prepared to respond to wildland fires. The Volunteer Fire Assistance (VFA) program provides funding on a 50/50 cost share basis to volunteer fire departments that protect populations of 10,000 or less while the Rural Fire Assistance (RFA) program does the same but with a 90/10 split. In order to receive RFA funding, fire departments must enter into an agreement to respond to wildland fires on Department of Interior land.

VFA has seen its funding reduced from $16 million in FY 2010 to $15.662 million in FY 2011 and $13.025 million in FY 2012. RFA, which has historically been funded at between $7-10 million per year, hasn’t been funded in either of the last two fiscal years. The funding for these programs in FY 2010 was $23 million combined but would be reduced to $11.733 million in FY 2013 under the President’s budget request. The NVFC is asking Congress to restore the collective funding level to at least $16 million.