Elk County Commissioners distribute equipment to area fire departments

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Four area fire departments were the recipient of over $13,000 in wildland fire personal protection equipment and hand-held equipment thanks to grant funds received for the preparation of a Community Wildfire Protection Plan.
In 2015, the Elk County Board of Commissioners were approached by Peter To, forest fire management officer from the Allegheny National Forest and asked to participate in a joint project with McKean County to prepare a Community Wildfire Protection Plan. CWPPs are a federal forest plan that is utilized to identify areas in the county that are most susceptible to a forest fire or brush fire. A CWPP typically only studies federal forest lands. In order to include the entire county in the plan, the state Bureau of Forestry was included in the project as well. There was no cost to the county, however, assistance from the Planning Department was requested.
Jodi Foster, Elk County Planning Department Director worked with Pete to secure $45,000 in funding to pay for the plan, which was completed in 2017. When the plan’s cost was lower than expected, permission was received from the Federal Forest Service to utilize the excess funds to begin implementing some of the recommendations that were included in the plan.
An informational brochure was created for the fire departments to give to homeowners educating them about how best to protect their homes in case of a wildfire or brush fire. Then, Jodi began looking at surveys the fire departments completed to determine how best to utilize the remaining funds and who needed assistance the most. The Highland Township Fire Department was chosen, not only because they are a small department with limited funds, but because they are also located in the heart of the ANF. The Wilcox, Johnsonburg, and Ridgway Fire Departments were also included due to their close proximity to the ANF.
The Highland Township Volunteer Fire Department members received a full complement of wildland fire personal protection equipment (PPE) including shirts, pants, vests, gloves, socks, boots, goggles, and helmets. The department also received a 20 inch and 24-inch chain saw, a back-pack leaf blower and a hand-held leaf blower to assist them in fighting wildfires. Wilcox, Ridgway, and Johnsonburg Fire Departments all received a back-pack leaf blower and a hand-held leaf blower as well.