Tester Introduces Bipartisan Legislation to Support Montana Firefighters

Senator Fights to Reauthorize Grant Initiative that Provides Rural Fire Departments with Critical Resources

(U.S. Senate)—U.S. Senator Jon Tester today introduced bipartisan legislation to reauthorize critical grant initiatives that provide Montana fire departments with essential resources to purchase equipment and hire more firefighters.

Tester’s bipartisan bill, the Fire Grants Reauthorization Act, will reauthorize the Assistance to Firefighters (AFG) and Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant initiatives that are set to expire on January 2, 2018. Dozens of Montana fire departments have utilized these grants to purchase new firetrucks, safety gear, updated equipment, and hire additional firefighters.

“When emergency strikes, firefighters must have the equipment, training, and staff they need to respond quickly and safely,” Tester said. “These grants provide local fire departments the opportunity to secure additional resources that they otherwise wouldn’t have access to so they can keep families safe and secure in rural communities across Montana. It is critical that Congress reauthorize this important safety initiative for our first responders.”

Fire departments across Montana praised Tester’s bipartisan effort.

“The true first line of defense against natural disasters natural or manmade across this country is its local first responders,” said Rich Cowger, Chief of the Columbus Rural Fire District. “The most powerful impact to immediate life safety is delivered locally and the SAFER and AFG programs allow local government responders to acquire the tools and staffing to keep up with the increasing demands of today’s challenges. I want to thank Senator Tester for his bipartisan work on trying to keep these successful programs available to the nation’s first responders.”

“Senator Tester has always supported the fire service and more specifically Montana Firefighters,” said Steve Hester, Chief of Great Falls Fire and Rescue. “Without his support these important federal grant programs could go away and that would be bad news for all departments in the State of Montana. For us it would mean using old worn out equipment that is dangerous to our community and to our firefighters. As the Fire Chief, I cannot over-state what Senator Jon Tester’s support means to me and to my community.”

“These grants provided us with life-saving equipment and funds for staffing that otherwise would not have become a reality,” said Brent Christopherson, Assistant Fire Chief of Missoula Rural Fire District. “There is no doubt that many local governments and fire districts, including ours, have been made safer because of the availability of these funds. I would like to thank Senator Jon Tester for his bipartisan support to reauthorize these two most important grant programs. I am so encouraged by his effort reaching across party lines and support such important legislation for the fire service.”

AFG grants provide financial support to local fire departments to train, equip, and ensure firefighters have adequate safety gear for emergency responses.

SAFER grants provide funding directly to fire departments and volunteer firefighters to help increase and maintain the number of trained firefighters in rural communities.

Fire departments in Bozeman, Missoula, Great Falls, Deer Lodge, Billings, Crow, Livingston, Helena, Dixon, Columbia Falls, Kalispell, Butte, Columbus, Florence, Lewistown, DeBorgia, Miles City, Rexford, Emigrant, Culbertson, Whitefish, and others have received AFG or SAFER grants in recent years.

Tester’s Fire Grants Reauthorization Act is cosponsored by Senators John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine).