Paper company Georgia-Pacific is all too aware of how valuable the services of firefighters are, especially when a single spark can ignite an entire production facility, as the company learned firsthand in February when a blaze shut down a plant in Brookneal, Va. G-P is looking to give back to these life savers through the Bucket Brigade, a program that awards grant money to fire units in more than 50 communities.

In partnership with The National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC), Georgia-Pacific has awarded more than $300,000 for new gear, vehicle repairs, water pumps and more. The application period for 2010 is now open, and fire departments in G-P communities are encouraged to apply before the Aug. 9 deadline.

Fire safety is an important part of Georgia-Pacific's operations. In the case of the Brookneal blaze, fire sprinklers along with the company's trained fire suppression unit put out most of the blaze but needed the help of local firefighters when the fire traveled to the exhaust and duct work at the oriented strand board (OSB) plant.

Last October during National Fire Prevention Month, Georgia-Pacific CEO Jim Hannan thanked the volunteer and small-town firefighters in G-P communities around the country.

"Because many of our employees also serve as volunteer firefighters, we understand the demands on these units and their need for equipment and financial support. The Georgia-Pacific Bucket Brigade program allows us to show our appreciation for the essential services they provide."

All applicants are rewarded with a year-long membership in the National Volunteer Fire Council. A list of Georgia Pacific facilities can be viewed at the Georgia-Pacific website.