Tester Announces $200,000 for the Columbus Rural Fire District

(U.S Senate) – Senator Jon Tester announced today that the Columbus Rural Fire District will receive $221,905 through FEMA’s Assistance to Firefighter Grant (AFG) Program. These funds will allow the department to purchase new self-contained breathing apparatuses (SCBA) for their firefighters.

“The brave men and women of the Columbus Rural Fire District are the first line of defense when disaster strikes in the area,” Tester said. “So it’s our responsibility to make sure they have what they need to do their jobs safely and effectively.”

This was the fourth year that the Columbus Rural Fire District applied for funding to replace their SCBAs. During Tester’s visit to Columbus back in February, Fire Chief Rich Cowger explained that the department had been unsuccessful in securing this funding for the last three years. Tester then wrote a letter of support on their behalf, which proved to be key to the department’s success this time around.

“The award of this grant really is a huge benefit for not only the Columbus Fire Department and the residents of the Columbus area but also for those in surrounding areas that we mutual aid with,” Cowger said. “The award of this grant will allow us to go out and purchase a complete set of state of the art breathing equipment to protect our volunteers and staff and allows us to provide for a more efficient and safe operation for our customers. Due to the cost of this equipment, about $8000.00 each we could have never done this on our own.”

Tester has been a strong advocate for Montana’s state and local firefighters. As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Tester helped secure $680 million for the AFG program in fiscal year 2015. He then fought hard to secure an additional $10 million for the program in fiscal year 2016.

The selection process for these grants is a competitive one, with fire departments from across country applying for a limited pool of funding. Columbus is the seventh Montana fire department to receive an AFG grant this year, with earlier awards going to fire departments in Livingston, Missoula, and Great Falls, among others.