Southbend Volunteer Fire Department and the Lonoke Fire Department are 2013 recipient of a $1,000 matching Volunteer Fire Assistance (VFA) Grant from the Rural Fire Protection Program of the Arkansas Forestry Commission (AFC). Money to fund this program is administered by the AFC, and provided by the US Forest Service. Grant dollars are used to assist fire departments in wildland firefighting capabilities.

In 2013, the AFC awarded 100 VFA grants, like this to Southbend and Lonoke, that are departments mostly volunteer in nature with community populations of 10,000 people or less. Grant recipients are chosen based on need and merit of proposed projects. Because these are matching grants, the department must purchase wildland firefighting equipment and/or gear in the amount of $2,000.

"These grants are oriented to help Arkansas firefighters better equip themselves and therefore better protect their communities. Through our wildland fire training course and quality gear and equipment, we can help firefighters safely and effectively prevent and suppress wildfire," said John Blackburn, Rural Fire Protection Administrator.

Volunteer fire departments are partner agencies in preventing and suppressing wildland fires with AFC crews throughout Arkansas. Since the inception of its Rural Fire Program in 1979, the AFC has made the equipping of rural fire departments a top priority. Federal funds for 2014 grants are projected to be available by early summer. Fire departments should contact their district AFC offices for information about applying for these funds. Visit for a list of all county and district AFC contacts.

The mission of the Arkansas Forestry Commission is to protect Arkansas’s forests, and those who enjoy them, from wildland fire and natural hazards while promoting rural and urban forest health, stewardship, development, and conservation for all generations of Arkansans. Visit To report a wildfire, call the AFC Dispatch Center at 1-800-468-8834. To report an emergency, dial 911.