Apr. 24—A bill that would continue to make federal grants available to New Hampshire fire companies has passed the U.S. Senate and is headed to the House.

The bipartisan Fire Grants and Safety Act reauthorizes three 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).

The three programs are set to expire next year.

U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-NH, helped advance the bill through the Senate Homeland Security Committee earlier this month.

Fire departments use these federal funds for recruitment and training, as well as purchasing fire trucks and equipment, including breathing air compressors, hoses, nozzles and more.

"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 Hassan in a statement. "I was glad to join my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to pass this important legislation to support firefighters, 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."

In 2021, the Manchester Fire Department received $1,366,700 through one of these grants for operations and safety, and Goffstown received $1,223,467 to hire firefighters.

Recently, the Candia Fire Department received $690,562 for recruitment and retention, also through one of these grants.

"The Manchester Fire Department were only able to replace the 200 plus Self Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA) because of the Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG)," said Manchester Fire Chief Ryan Cashin in a statement. "Without this vital federal funding we would not be able to adequately protect the citizens of Manchester."

"On behalf of the New Hampshire Fire Service, I would like to extend our thanks to Senator Hassan for her continued support for public safety," said state Fire Marshal Sea Toomey in a statement "Working to fund these critical programs enhances the capabilities of many fire departments across our state. In a time of increased budget constraints at the local level these programs provide equipment, training and staffing that may otherwise be unavailable."

Portsmouth Fire Chief Bill McQuillen said the Assistance to Firefighters Grants funding meant his department could purchase breathing apparatus sooner, making it safer for local firefighters and the community.

"Supporting these programs proves that staffing, safety, and the well-being 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," said McQuillen.

Berlin Fire Chief James Watkins said the AFG and SAFER grant programs have been critical resources for his department over the years.

"(The grants) allow us to apply for, and receive federal funding to adequately staff and train our firefighters, replace outdated gear with modern, safer equivalents and is allowing the Berlin Fire Dept. to replace a fire engine that has been in service since the late 1970s," Watkins said in a statement.

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