WASHINGTON AND SURROUNDING COUNTIES - Regional volunteer fire departments will now have access to full reimbursement, a Florida Forest Service news release stated.

The FFS's Volunteer Fire Assistance (VFA) Program provides federal financial, technical and other assistance to State Foresters to organize, train and equip fire departments in rural areas to prevent and suppress fires. The program is reserved for counties that were impacted by Hurricane Michael - Bay, Calhoun, Franklin, Gadsden, Gulf, Holmes, Jackson, Leon, Liberty, Wakulla and Washington.

"We are doing everything we can to help the people and communities impacted by Hurricane Michael," said Jim Karels, State Forester and Director of the Florida Forest Service. "This program is one way we can help the local fire departments be better equipped to help respond and protect citizens as well their homes and communities."

VFA grant funding is distributed to fire departments with the greatest need and can be used for the purchase of wildland and structural personal protective gear, communications equipment, water handling equipment and training, the release stated. Traditionally, the VFA funding covers half of eligible purchases.

Volunteer fire departments can download the VFA Federal Funding Application online or by contacting Matt Weinell with the Florida Forest Service at (850) 681-5931. For more information, go to FloridaForestService.com.