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???? Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King are two co-sponsors of the Fire Grants and Safety Act
???? The bill reauthorizes three programs set to expire in 2024
???? Sen. Maggie Hassan helped advance the bill through the Senate Homeland Security Committee
A bipartisan bill that would continue to make federal grants available to Maine and New Hampshire fire companies has passed the U.S. Senate and moves onto the House.
The Fire Grants and Safety Act, which was co-sponsored by Maine Senators Susan Collins (R) and Angus King (I) reauthorizes thre grant programs: the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) program, the Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) program and the United States Fire Administration (USFA). All will expire in 2024 unless reauthorized by Congress.
NH Senator Maggie Hassan helped advance the bill through the Senate Homeland Security Committee. The vote on the bill was 95-2 which included a yes vote from Sen. Jeanne Shaheen.
Fire departments use these federal programs for recruitment and training, as well as buy fire trucks and equipment such as breathing air compressors, hoses, nozzles, and more. Fire stations also utilize the programs to fund safety and technical rescue training, as well as for health screenings for firefighters
Past benefits in New Hampshire, Maine
“Without these grant programs, fire departments across New Hampshire may not be able to afford critical, lifesaving equipment or training that they need in order to keep our communities safe,” said Senator Hassan. “I was glad to join my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to pass this important legislation to support fire fighters, and I urge my colleagues in the House to join us so that we can get this bill to the President’s desk without delay.”
New Hampshire has received $39 million from these programs in recent years. Portsmouth Fire Chief Bill McQuillen said the AFG program allowed his department to purchase important breathing apparatus sooner.
“Supporting these programs proves that staffing, safety, and the wellbeing of firefighters is a priority to Senator Hassan and to those of us who receive these grants, to buy the critical equipment needed to do our jobs and protect the public," McQuillen said in a statement
The Sanford Fire Department used AFG money to replace an older SCBA fit test machine which makes sure that the air packs worn by firefighters have a proper fit, according to Assistant Chief Robert Arnold. It also helped certify the entire department in Rapid Intervention Team (RIT) training which helps locate trapped and downed firefighters.
A small 4x4 fire engine that the program made possible to purchase is still being used now to fight forest and grass fires.
"This asset helps protect life and property in all of York County, not just Sanford,” Arnold said. "This week alone we have responded to fires in the county with this engine four times."
The Fire Grants and Safety Act reauthorizes SAFER, AFG at the same levels and increases USFA funding to $95 million, a nearly $20 million increase from current levels.