Daily Inter Lake: Fire Grants and Safety Act passes US Senate

by Kate Heston

The Fire Grants and Safety Act, which would reauthorize the Assistance to Firefighters Grants Program and the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response Grant Program, passed the U.S. Senate last week.

The legislation, which has the support of Montana Sen. Jon Tester, represents a bipartisan effort to reauthorize the grant programs offering resources for fire agencies looking to improve staffing and buy equipment. Tester is chair of the Congressional Fire Services Caucus.

“Montana’s firefighters are often the first line of defense when disaster strikes, and I’ll always do everything in my power to ensure they have the necessary resources to keep our communities safe,” said Tester in a statement.

The programs are slated to expire in 2024, but the legislation would allow them to continue until fiscal year 2030.

In addition to reauthorizing the two grant programs, the bill increases funding for the U.S. Fire Administration through 2030. The agency provides data, training, education and more for firefighters nationally. The administration would see funding go from $76.5 million to $95 million through 2030 upon passage of the legislation.

According to Tester’s office, the legislation is supported by firefighters and firefighting groups in Montana.

Lincoln Chute, the fire service area manager for Flathead County’s Office of Emergency Services, said that the Flathead Valley has used these grant programs many times, specifically when they need equipment, like radios.

“It is just invaluable,” Chute said about the funding.

According to Chute, many districts lack budgets large enough for spending on items like new radios. With help from programs like these, firefighters can put money towards things that are outside of basic maintenance and insurance.

The bill is also supported nationally by the Congressional Fire Services Institute, International Association of Fire Fighters, International Association of Fire Chiefs, National Fire Protection Association and others.

“Firefighters have dangerous jobs, and it’s critical they have the equipment and personnel needed to safely handle emergencies. I’m proud to get this much needed bipartisan bill across the finish line in the Senate, and I’ll keep taking the lead from our firefighters and first responders when it comes to keeping Montana safe,” Tester said in a statement.

Fire Grants and Safety Act passes US Senate | Daily Inter Lake