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Grants to help towns fight forest fires

Some Franklin County volunteer fire departments will benefit from a state grant awarded to towns with state forests to aid with equipment and supply purchases.

The competitive grant program, with funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service, is to help small towns with volunteer departments combat wildfires and forest fires on public property. Among the 41 fire departments statewide that were selected to receive the grants, which provide a 50 percent reimbursement for equipment, were Bernardston, $1,705; Buckland, $2,000; Gill, $2,000; Hawley, $1,099 and South Deerfield, $1,549.

“It definitely does help, because we can get more personal protection equipment, instead of going out to a wildfire wearing our regular turnout gear and heavy boots,” said Gill Fire Chief Gene Beaubien, whose department got help buying $4,000 worth of lighter-weight, fire-resistant fire-fighting coats and pants, as well as “forest-style” hose that’s smaller and easier to handle in the woods.

The department still might have gotten the gear, he said, but “not as easily,” because it would have had to come out of the department’s limited budget.

Eligible proposed equipment is related to firefighter safety, technology transfer and rural fire defense. Eligible towns are described as high-risk communities that are adjacent to public lands,” according to a press statement from the state Department of Conservation and Recreation.

“Community fire departments are critical to combating wildfires and forest fires,” said DCR Commissioner Jack Murray. “These VFA grants help local departments get the equipment they need to ensure the safety of our communities.”

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