NASF, the National Volunteer Fire Council, the International Association of Fire Chiefs, and the Congressional Fire Services Institute have sent letters to appropriations leadership in the House of Representatives and the Senate about two critically important wildfire protection programs: State Fire Assistance (SFA) and Volunteer Fire Assistance (VFA).
SFA and VFA, programs housed within the USDA Forest Service’s State and Private Forestry mission area, help reduce the federal government’s emergency wildfire suppression costs and the threats presented by wildfire to communities on both public and private lands.
The SFA program assists states and local fire departments in responding to wildland fires and conducting management activities that mitigate fire risk on non-federal lands. The program also helps train and equip state first responders, who are the first to arrive at a wildfire (on any land ownership) 80 percent of the time. For instance, in Fiscal Year (FY) 2018, SFA provided over $28 million in direct funding for hazardous fuels treatments on 49,400 acres and empowered partners to conduct treatments on an additional 184,808 acres, benefiting a combined 1,065 communities in the wildland-urban interface (WUI). An additional $3.7 million in SFA assistance went to conducting 3,882 risk assessments and completing fire management planning projects in 2,873 communities. Altogether in FY18, SFA funding assisted 12,829 communities and trained 97,210 wildland firefighters.
The VFA program provides support to rural communities and is critical to ensuring adequate capacity to respond to wildfires, reducing the risk to communities, people, homes and property, and firefighters. During FY18, the VFA program helped provide assistance to 13,959 communities, train 21,868 firefighters, expanded or organize 48 fire departments, and purchase, rehabilitate, or maintain nearly $11 million worth of equipment.
In their letter, the signatories recommended SFA be funded at $87 million and VFA be funded at $18 million in FY 2020. “We appreciate the difficult task the Committee faces in the current budget climate,” they wrote, but “(i)t is important to remember, however, that these vital programs safeguard human life, habitat, and property, and reduce the overall cost of wildland fire management.”
Have questions? Contact NASF Communications Director Whitney Forman-Cook at firstname.lastname@example.org.