Montana Firefighters Talk Improving Safety, Resources with Tester

Senator: We need to take care of firefighters as well as they take care of us

(U.S. Senate) – Following the loss of Great Falls firefighter Jason Baker, U.S. Senator Jon Tester met with Montana firefighters to discuss ways he can support them in their mission to keep Montana communities safe.

Tester met with David Van Son of the Montana State Council of Professional Firefighters, and the two discussed Tester’s work on behalf of firefighters who are diagnosed with cancer.

“Firefighters put their lives on the line every day to keep us safe,” Tester said. “It’s high time we take care of them as well as they take care of us.”

Specifically, Tester and Van Son talked about Tester’s efforts to secure line-of-duty death benefits for firefighters who, like Baker, have died from job-related diseases. Firefighters are exposed to stress, smoke, heat, and various toxic substances on a daily basis, making them far more likely to develop certain kinds of cardiovascular disease, lung disease, and cancer.

Tester’s Fire Fighter Cancer Registry Act was signed into law last year, and in January, Tester called on the Montana Legislature to pass a presumptive illness bill that would make it easier for firefighters to get workers compensation benefits for job-related diseases.

They also discussed the work Tester has done to invest in firefighter training and equipment. Tester’s Fire Grants Reauthorization Act was signed into law last January, reauthorizing the Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) and the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant initiatives. These grants provide critical resources to help keep firefighters safe in the field and recruit, train and equip them for emergency responses.

As Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee, Tester secured $700 million for AFG and SAFER grants last year last year-a $10 million increase over 2017.

“Keeping Montanans safe is my top priority,” Tester said. “These programs make sure firefighters have the training, equipment, and resources they need to respond to emergencies quickly and effectively, so they can continue to save lives, protect property, and keep our families and communities secure.”

Tester was the only member of Montana’s Congressional delegation who voted to fund AFG and SAFER programs.