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March 14, 2014

VDOF Puts New Firefighting Equipment in the Field

The Virginia Department of Forestry (VDOF) has improved its ability to respond to wildfires in the Commonwealth by upgrading several pieces of fire equipment in its suppression fleet.  Five new wildland brush trucks and four new tractor/plows with transports, valued at nearly $1.3 million, were distributed to various locations across Virginia.  The units were purchased to replace existing equipment that had reached the end of its service life.

The five new brush trucks replace military-type Humvees that had been in service for more than 20 years.  These new trucks have 300-gallon water tanks, larger capacity pumps, additional hose and improved emergency lighting along with the ability to transport up to five firefighters.

Steve Counts, VDOF’s assistant director of resource protection, said, “With the addition of these wildland engines, we can improve response time, increase protection of wildland home communities, and provide safer equipment for our firefighters.  We are always looking for ways to improve our emergency response and achieve our No. 1 priority, which is the safety of our employees, other emergency responders and the citizens of Virginia.”

The four new tractor/plow units are John Deere 550 bulldozers equipped with larger engines and a mounted fire plow.  These units have environmental glass-enclosed cabs with air filtration systems that filter out smoke while battling wildland fires.

Counts said, “These tractor units are a great improvement over the older style, open-cab tractors.  By upgrading to the new tractors, we can decrease operator fatigue, increase fireline production and provide enhanced safety during wildfire response.”

With almost 90 tractor/plow units, 11 wildland engines and 170 first responders, the Virginia Department of Forestry, in cooperation with many volunteer and professional fire departments, protects Virginia’s citizens, their homes, personal property and our natural resources from the devastation associated with the 1,100 wildfires that burn each year in Virginia.

Governor Presents VDOF Employee with Award

Gov. Terry McAuliffe honored VDOF’s fire chief by presenting him the 2013 Governor’s Fire Service Award for Excellence in Virginia Fire Service Training. The award was presented at the annual Virginia Fire Chiefs Meeting in Virginia Beach. John Miller has served as VDOF’s director of resource protection since 2001.

“I am certainly honored to have been chosen for the award and glad for the recognition that it brings to the wildland fire training program of the Virginia Department of Forestry,” Miller said.  “It is also very important to note that this recognition is the result of a lot of work by all of the great employees of the VDOF.  While I may have been the one who was specifically recognized, this award really is for everyone within my agency.”

Landowners Invited to Learn About Forest Certification

Woodland owners interested in learning more about getting a certified stamp of approval for their forest management can attend an evening program hosted by the VDOF and Virginia Cooperative Extension (VCE).

The three-hour program will cover sustainable woodland management; what woodland certification is; pros and cons of certification; certification programs in Virginia, and how to start the process of certification. A question and answer session will follow the program. Dinner will be provided.

Programs will be held during March and April in the following locations: Franklin, Providence Forge, Wytheville, Farmville and Gainesville. Advance registration is $20 per person and dinner will be provided.  To register, please visit:

Glatfelter Company Donates Trees to Virginia

York, Pennsylvania-based P.H. Glatfelter Company will donate more than 78,000 pine seedlings to Virginia landowners under a seedling match cost-share program. Since 1956, the company has partnered with the VDOF to provide seedlings for reforestation projects.

VDOF Assistant Director for Forest Management Todd Groh said, “Glatfelter has a long-standing relationship with Virginia landowners. By funding this cost-share program, Glatfelter helps landowners reduce their cost for seedlings by providing up to 20,000 seedlings per landowner for reforestation projects. They are truly a partner in both promoting healthy forests and sustaining the forest resource.”

James Kuykendall, Glatfelter’s Southern MD/VA district manager, said, “Glatfelter is proud to be able to provide trees in partnership with the Virginia Department of Forestry. This cost-share program allows us to support landowners who recognize the value of the forest resource, as we do. Together we have the opportunity to support healthy forests, healthy communities and responsible industry.”

Under the terms of the program, reforestation projects by private, non-industrial woodland landowners are eligible in Amherst, Buckingham, Caroline, Clarke, Culpeper, Cumberland, Fairfax, Fauquier, Fluvanna, Frederick, Greene, King George, Loudoun, Louisa, Madison, Nelson, Orange, Page, Prince William, Rappahannock, Rockingham, Shenandoah, Spotsylvania, Stafford and Warren counties in Virginia.

In 2013, this cost-share program provided more than 78,000 pine seedlings to Virginians. Glatfelter owns and manages 10,000 acres of forestland in Virginia. Pulpwood from Virginia supplies the company’s mill in Spring Grove, Pennsylvania.

Equipment Donated In Memory of Alex Williamson

Representatives from 12 fire departments in Halifax County gathered at the South Boston Fire Department to remember the late William Alexander “Alex” Williamson.

His wife, Betty O’Brien Williamson, and children Amanda Griles and John Williamson presented each department with equipment from their “wish lists.”  Donated equipment included chainsaws, Scotty foam sticks, cartridges, rakes, forestry nozzles, chaps, a backpack leaf blower, collapsible brush pack and a Class A foam stick. Williamson’s wife donated the equipment purchased with money raised through the Alex Williamson Memorial Fund.

Alex Williamson of Alton passed away March 13, 2010. He was born in Halifax County and worked as a chief forestry technician with the VDOF for 35 years. He was a lifetime member of the Turbeville Volunteer Fire Department, an honorary member of South Boston Fire Company and other county fire departments.

Ms. Williamson encouraged everyone to support their local fire departments.