Tester to Chair Congressional Fire Services Caucus for the 118th Congress
Senator served as Co-Chair of the Caucus during the 117th Congress
As part of his continued effort to support our nation’s firefighters and first responders, U.S. Senator Jon Tester today announced that he will serve as Chair of the Congressional Fire Services Caucus for the 118th Congress. Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Tom Carper (D-DE), and Susan Collins (R-ME) will serve as Co-Chairs. Tester co-chaired the Fire Services Caucus during the 117th Congress, and has been a member since 2007.
“Too many people in Washington don’t know what a hard day’s work looks like and don’t understand the challenges Montana’s firefighters face every single day,” Tester said. “I am proud to be their voice in Congress, and look forward to working with Republicans and Democrats to make sure our brave firefighters have what they need to keep our communities safe.”
“For as long as he’s been in the Senate, Senator Tester has been a champion for Montana’s firefighters,” said George Richards, President of the Montana Firefighters. “Whether it was helping our firefighters and first responders get the retirement benefits they earned or securing funding for our local departments, Tester got a lot done as Co-Chair of the Congressional Fire Caucus last Congress. We look forward to continuing our work together to make sure our brave firefighters have the support they need on and off the job.”
Tester, is a longtime champion for federal, state, and local firefighters. In 2018, Tester was recognized by the Congressional Fire Services Institute (CSFI) as its Legislator of the Year.
“During his time in Congress, Senator Tester has been a strong supporter of the fire and emergency services, working in the spirit of bipartisanship to move forward on initiatives that help our fire and EMS personnel throughout the nation. He has been instrumental in legislation to protect firefighter health and safety, ensure that fire service grants remain authorized and funded, address issues pertaining to wildfire, and much more,” said Bill Webb, Executive Director of the Congressional Fire Services Institute. “CFSI looks forward to continuing working with Senator Tester in the 118th Congress to strengthen the caucus and ensure that Congress is aware of the needs and challenges of America’s fire and emergency services.”
Tester is a strong champion for state, local, and federal firefighters. Last June, after Tester wrote a letter to Departments of Agriculture, Interior, and the Office of Personnel Management, the Biden Administration established a special pay rate for federal wildland firefighters in order to combat staffing shortages as fire season approached.
Last year, Senator Tester helped pass three major pieces of legislation to help fire fighters and first responders. In December, President Biden signed Tester’s First Responders Fair Return for Employees on Their Initial Retirement Earned (RETIRE) Act into law, which will help federal firefighters, law enforcement officers, Customs and Border Protection officials, and other federal employees with potentially dangerous jobs receive their full retirement benefits if they are injured on duty. And that same month, as part of the 2023 government funding bill, Congress passed his Putting First Responders First Act to clarify current tax code ensuring first responders do not have to pay taxes on injury-related compensation when hurt in the line of duty. He also supported the Federal Fire Fighters Fairness Act to clarify that heart disease, certain cancers, and other diseases contracted by federal firefighters are job-related in order to help them get the health or disability benefits they deserve, which was passed as part of the 2022 National Defense Authorization Act.
Last Congress, Tester was a cosponsor of the Federal Firefighter Flexibility and Fairness Act, which would make it easier for federal firefighters to swap shifts without risking pay and the Fire Station Construction Grant Act, which would authorize up to $1 billion in fire station construction grants to build, maintain, or update fire stations across the United States. Tester also cosponsored the Firefighter and EMS Employer-Employee Cooperation Act to ensure Montana’s state and local firefighters maintain the right to engage in collective bargaining. He continues to push for increased funding for Assistance to Firefighters (AFG) and Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grants to ensure that fire department across the state have the resources and staffing they need to keep our communities safe.
Formed in 1987, the Congressional Fire Services Caucus was established to educate members of Congress about the work of the fire and emergency services, which goes far beyond simply fighting fires. Today, America’s fire and emergency services respond to calls pertaining to fires, medical incidents, hazardous materials incidents, natural disasters, and much more. The Fire Caucus was created to be a bipartisan group where Republicans and Democrats could work together to learn about our nation’s fire and emergency services, improve the readiness of local first responders, and jointly recognize their valor and dedication. A current list of Fire Caucus members can be found on CFSI’s website.