Chuckatuck Volunteer Fire Department will be better-equipped to fight brush fires — as well as to train its volunteers — after receiving a matching grant from the Virginia Department of Forestry.
A total of 171 volunteer fire departments applied for funds this year under the annual Volunteer Fire Assistance program, according to a department news release, and 140 successful applicants are sharing grants worth a combined $199,000.
After matching the $2,000 it received from the program, Chuckatuck VFD will outfit its brush truck with a dozen foam sticks and a new hose, said Jacob Johnson, the fire captain.
It will also purchase a television screen for the meeting room.
“You fill out the application with what items you need or want, then they determine how much — if any — you get,” Johnson said.
Loaded inside the nozzle, foam sticks gradually dissolve as water is pumped onto a blaze, breaking down the surface tension of the water so it can work its way into crevices, reaching parts of the fire that would otherwise escape suppression, Johnson said.
“It’s especially good with wood fires — around tree stumps and under logs,” he said.
The number of brush fires department volunteers work varies year to year, according to Johnson. But Chuckatuck has the only brush truck north of downtown Suffolk, he said.
“A couple of years ago in the city we had four or five,” he said. “We respond all the way up to Harbour View. And downtown, too, as the city has a limited number of brush trucks.”
As for the hose, the one currently on the 1997-model truck is still the original. “It’s coming up on 20 years old,” Johnson said.
“It’s got some wear, and it was a good opportunity to receive matching funds to replace it.”
The new screen in the meeting room, he said, would be used during monthly training, adding that the department is concentrating on getting new volunteers certified as soon as possible.
“It will certainly open up an opportunity for us to do a little bit more, and better, training,” Johnson said.
Requests for support under the grants program totaled $1.1 million, according to the department, and $3.4 million has been awarded since it began in 1975.
The program “provides vital funding to the many volunteer fire departments that assist us with the suppression of wildfires across the state,” stated John Miller, director of the department’s resource protection division.”