Fire Grants and Safety Act: Senate approves funding for firefighting and wildfire prevention

June 19, 2024

Fire Grants and Safety Act: Senate passes bipartisan legislation to support fusion energy and wildfire prevention

The Senate has passed bipartisan legislation led by U.S. Senators Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Todd Young (R-Ind.), and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) to accelerate the development of commercial fusion energy.

The Fusion Energy Act, included in The Fire Grants and Safety Act, aims to streamline the creation of clear federal regulations to support commercial fusion facilities by establishing the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s regulatory authority over these systems.

The Fire Grants and Safety Act also reauthorizes essential federal funding programs, strongly supported by Senator Padilla, to combat wildfires.

This includes the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant program and the Assistance to Firefighters Grants (AFG) program through FY 2030.

Additionally, it reauthorizes the United States Fire Administration (USFA).

The bill, having previously passed the House of Representatives, now heads to President Biden for his signature.

Funding reauthorizations for firefighters and wildfire prevention

Senator Padilla has consistently backed the reauthorization of funding for the USFA, AFG, and SAFER grant programs through FY 2030.

Last year, he emphasized the life-saving importance of this funding before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

Padilla highlighted the growing number and scale of wildfires in California and the West, stressing the critical role of these programs in enhancing response capabilities and supporting fire and emergency services.

“These critical federal resources are essential to bolstering California’s wildfire response efforts and ensuring our firefighters have the support they need to heroically save lives and protect property when catastrophe strikes,” said Senator Padilla.

“As fire departments continue to respond to more and more calls for help, reauthorizing funding for these grant programs will ensure fire departments across the country have the necessary staffing, training, and equipment to keep communities safe and help us better prepare for future wildfire disasters.”

Role of USFA and the impact of AFG and SAFER grants

The USFA, including the National Fire Academy, is housed within FEMA and the Department of Homeland Security.

Its objective is to significantly reduce the loss of life, property, and nonfatal injury due to fire.

Since 2001, the AFG program has assisted firefighters and first responders in obtaining critical equipment, protective gear, emergency vehicles, training, and other resources needed to protect the public and emergency personnel from fire and related hazards.

The SAFER grants provide funding directly to fire departments and volunteer firefighter organizations to increase or maintain the number of trained frontline firefighters.

The goal of SAFER is to enhance local fire departments’ abilities to comply with staffing, response, and operational standards established by the National Fire Protection Association.

IAFC and IAFF and legislative support

“I thank Congress for passing this critical legislation,” said Fire Chief John S. Butler, President and Board Chair of the International Association of Fire Chiefs.

“I would like to thank the leadership of the House and Senate; the Congressional Fire Services Caucus leadership; and the leadership of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee and the House Science, Space, and Technology

“This legislation confirms our nation’s commitment to firefighters.”

IAFC President Fire Chief John S. Butler

“Committee for their dedication to passing this legislation. This legislation confirms our nation’s commitment to firefighters and EMS personnel across the nation, who provide lifesaving service to their communities every day.”  

IAFF General President Edward Kelly emphasized the importance of these grants: “Lives in every state have been saved by AFG and SAFER grants, including the lives of firefighters.

“Communities large and small rely on these grants to hire and retain firefighters and to ensure they have the equipment and training to do the job as safely as possible.”

In Fiscal Year 2022, IAFF-affiliated departments received 70 SAFER grants and more than $286 million, while 400 AFG grants provided over $100 million to these departments.

The passage of the Fire Grants and Safety Act, supported by continuous lobbying efforts from the IAFF, reflects bipartisan commitment to protecting communities and firefighters.

The bill’s success is attributed to the leadership of several lawmakers and organizations, with President Biden expected to sign it into law soon.

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