Grants can help owners save homes from fires

Published 11:59 pm Monday, September 21, 2009

The Alabama Forestry Commission announced Monday funds are available to assist local homeowners in taking steps to protect their home from wildfires.

“The grants are from the Wild Land Urban Interface Program and will allow qualified homeowners to create a ‘defensible space’ around their home in the event of a wildfire,” said AFC’s Gary Thompson.

Thompson said defensible spaces are defined as an area at least 30 feet of either pruned or limited vegetation next to a structure to allow fire department personnel an easily accessible work area in case of fire.

“Which means these funds are only available to those living in a wild land setting,” he said. “If you’ve seen the news lately and heard about the issues in Texas and California, know that it can happen here.

“There were homes in the middle of these lands that were destroyed in a wildfire,” he said. “Our goal here is to do what we can now to protect homes in case of such an instance.”

Thompson said only individual homeowners residing in communities in moderate to severe danger from wildfire are eligible to apply for grant funds. Businesses and churches are not eligible.

These areas include Onycha, the Brooks community, the Red Level area, the Gantt/Searight area, Libertyville, Sanford, Babbie, Horn Hill and the Florala/Lockhart area.

Grants are available to cover 75 percent of the cost of work, which is not to exceed $1,000.

Work can be completed with homeowner labor and tools, with contract labor and tools or a combination of both. Homeowners will receive credit for tools, which may be rented if not already owned, and labor based on hour rates set by the grant. Some tools accepted are: chainsaws, pruning equipment, front end loaders, tractor and bush hogs, haul trucks and trailers, stump grinders, bucket trucks and other various tools.

Once awarded, it will be the homeowner’s responsibility to account for all expenses, including invoices and receipts, and those must be presented after work is completed, which must be within 90 days of signing the grant agreement.

For more information or to apply, call Gary Thompson at 334-222-0379 or come by the Alabama Forestry Commission’s office at 1803 Dr. MLK Expressway in Andalusia.