State Sen. Steve Southerland, R-Morristown, urged all local volunteer fire departments in Cocke, Greene, Hamblen and Sevier counties Thursday in Senate District 1 to apply for grants through a new Volunteer Firefighter Equipment and Training Grant Program which opened for applications on Friday.

The program was established through legislation passed by the General Assembly last year which was co-sponsored by Southerland.

“Our volunteer firefighters are on the front line of public safety,” Southerland said. “Their work also impacts our lives in ways that some may not fully realize. For example, their presence in our communities reduces insurance rates. We must do everything we can to ensure the brave women and men who risk their lives keeping us safe have the best training and most modern equipment available. I’m pleased these grants are available to respond to the urgent need for additional resources to assist our volunteer fire departments and will continue to do everything I can to assist them.”

The program earmarks $500,000 for the purchase of firefighting equipment by Tennessee’s volunteer fire departments or to help volunteer departments meet local match requirements for federal grants for purchasing equipment.

Fire departments must hold a valid recognition from the SFMO and have a staff made up of at least 51% volunteers to apply.

Grant proceeds may be used to purchase equipment used by a firefighter to extinguish fires and protect the life of a firefighter, other than fire trucks or vehicles.

Applications received during the submission period will be scored internally and submitted to a seven member committee who will make the final decision and award selection.

The committee is composed of three representatives from the Tennessee Fire Chief’s Association, three representatives from the Tennessee Firemen’s Association, and TDCI’s Assistant Commissioner of Fire Prevention. Per statute, the funds will be awarded equally among Tennessee’s Grand Divisions.

Applications will be accepted until 5:00 p.m. CT on Friday, March 27, 2020. For a full list of rules and an application, applicants can visit the Department of Commerce and Insurance website.