Bipartisan legislation authored by U.S. Senators Gary Peters (D-MI), Susan Collins (R-ME), Tom Carper (D-DE), and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) to extend federal programs that help support local fire departments across the country has advanced in the Senate.
The bill would reauthorize the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant program, the Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) program, and the United States Fire Administration (USFA). The programs are set to expire and are used by local fire departments to address staffing needs, purchase equipment, develop fire training and education programs, and improve emergency medical services.
The bill was approved by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee where Peters serves as Chair. It now moves to the full Senate for consideration.
“Fire stations rely on federal grant programs for the resources and tools they need to protect Michiganders and people across the nation,” said Senator Peters. “Congress must pass this bipartisan legislation to extend these programs that ensure brave and courageous firefighters can safely protect communities from fires and others emergencies.”
“Firefighters across Maine and the country courageously and selflessly put their lives on the line to serve their towns and cities,” said Senator Collins. “I helped create FEMA’s firefighter grant programs in 2003 as part of a bipartisan effort to ensure that firefighters have adequate staffing, equipment, and training to do their important jobs as effectively and safely as possible. By reauthorizing these programs, we can continue to deliver this critical assistance to fire departments and support firefighters as they work to protect lives and property.”
“The brave firefighters who put their lives on the line every day to serve First State communities deserve the tools, resources and training they need to protect our communities,” said Senator Carper, co-chair of the Congressional Fire Services Caucus. “This bipartisan legislation will ensure that fire departments have the resources they need to keep our communities safe.”
“Last year, three million acres of land burned in Alaska, accounting for nearly half of the acres burned in the entire United States. Wildfires are becoming more prevalent throughout the country, and resources are stretched. Alaska’s vast geography makes response difficult, whether it’s our first responders heading to a wildfire hundreds of miles away or helping with a house fire in the next village during a snow storm with no plowed roads,” said Senator Lisa Murkowski. “As Fire Caucus Co-Chair, I’m working hard to ensure our first responders have what they need to keep our communities safe. I am proud to be an original cosponsor of this bill which helps provide funding opportunities to help our fire departments with the resources they need to do their critical work in protecting Alaskans and their communities.”
Fire departments use these federal programs to recruit and retain additional personnel, as well as buy up-to-date vehicles and equipment such as breathing air compressors, hoses, nozzles, and more. Fire stations also utilize the programs to fund safety training and technical rescue training, as well as health screenings for firefighters.
The Fire Grants and Safety Act would reauthorize SAFER, AFG, and the USFA until 2030. It would authorize $95 million for USFA – a nearly $20 million increase from current levels, and maintain currently authorized levels of funding for the SAFER and AFG programs.
Below are statements in support of the senators’ bipartisan legislation:
“I would like to thank Senator Peters and Senator Collins for introducing this important legislation. The AFG and SAFER grants provide federal matching funds directly to local fire and EMS departments to help them provide lifesaving service in their communities. In addition, the U.S. Fire Administration is an important federal partner for local fire departments for data, training, and fire prevention,” said Chief Donna Black, EFO, CFO, the President and Chair of the Board of the International Association of Fire Chiefs. “I look forward to working with them to pass this important legislation this year.”
“Volunteer and combination fire and EMS departments struggle to get the funding they need to keep the lights on, fuel the ambulance, and purchase turnout gear,” said National Volunteer Fire Council Chair Steve Hirsch. “Local fundraisers such as chicken dinners can only raise so much. The AFG and SAFER programs are critical to these departments because they allow them to purchase needed equipment and provide recruitment incentives to volunteers to serve their community. I appreciate Chairman Peters and Senator Collins for their leadership in moving this reauthorization forward.”
“The Congressional Fire Services Institute (CFSI) thanks Chairman Peters and Senator Collins for their support of America’s fire and emergency services. Reauthorizing the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) and Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) programs, as well as the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) will help to ensure that fire departments across the country have the necessary support to keep their communities safe,” said President of the CFSI Board of Directors, Jim Estepp. “Chairman Peters and Senator Collins understand how important AFG, SAFER, and USFA are to the work of our country’s fire and EMS personnel, and CFSI looks forward to working with them and the Congressional Fire Services Caucus to move forward on this vital legislation.”
“On behalf of the Board of Directors of the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation, I would like to thank Senator Peters and Senator Collins for their commitment to our nation’s fire and emergency services. This important legislation will help ensure fire departments across the country have access to the critical equipment, staffing, and training they need to keep our communities safe. Additionally, the bill makes continued investments in Community Risk Reduction, research into firefighter health and safety, and vital data collection efforts. We thank the Senators for their continued efforts to keep America’s firefighters and their communities safe,” said Chief Ron Siarnicki, Executive Director of the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation.
“The International Society of Fire Service Instructors (ISFSI) strongly supports the reauthorization of the Staffing for Adequate Fire & Emergency Response (SAFER) program, Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) program, and the U.S. Fire Administration. Investing funds to ensure our firefighters have the resources necessary to protect their communities is essential to ensuring they are able to go home to their families,” said Leigh Hubbard, Executive Director of ISFSI. “We appreciate the work Chairman Peters and Senator Collins have done on this vital legislation.”
“The IAFF applauds Senators Peters and Collins for their leadership in developing a long-term reauthorization of the AFG and SAFER programs, which serve as integral parts of America’s fire service. Reauthorizing these programs and eliminating their statutory sunset sends a strong message that staffing, safety, and the well-being of fire fighters remains the highest priority for Congress,” said International Association of Fire Fighters, General President Edward Kelly. “The IAFF also appreciates Senators Peters and Collins work to reauthorize and increase funding for the U.S. Fire Administration. The USFA is a vital partner that supports fire fighters and enables their service to our communities. These funds will ensure USFA can work with America’s fire fighters to confront ever-worsening wildfires, support the continued growth of fire-based EMS, and improve our data analysis abilities. Our IAFF urges Congress to pass the Fire Grants and Safety Act as soon as possible. America’s fire fighters and EMS personnel, and our communities deserve nothing less.”
“NFPA strongly supports this bipartisan bill to continue the important work of the U.S. Fire Administration as well as the AFG and SAFER grant programs that are critical to our first responders.” Jim Pauley, President & CEO, National Fire Protection Association.
Read more at the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs