During July and August, matching funds grant checks for rural fire departments are being distributed by the Missouri Department of Conservation, Forestry Division staff.  One hundred sixty-eight (168) fire departments are receiving checks for up to $4,000 to help with the purchase of personal protective gear, communications equipment and wildfire suppression equipment to help increase the fire departments capacity to suppress wildfires safely and efficiently.  The total funding awarded to Missouri fire departments through the matching funds grant program this year is $386,639.14.  Fire departments are required to match 50% of the funds which are provided by the Missouri Department of Conservation and the US Forest Service, Volunteer Fire Assistance Program.  Throughout the last 30 years, over $8 million has been distributed to rural fire departments to help them increase the safety of their firefighters and provide them with better firefighting equipment.  The Lake Ozark Fire Protection District used these funds to purchase wildland Personal Protective Gear such as brush coats, brush helmets, and other safety gear.