Murkowski Applauds Senate Passage of Bipartisan Legislation to Extend Federal Support for Local Fire Departments

U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), co-chair of the U.S. Senate Fire Caucus, today announced that bipartisan legislation, of which she was an original co-sponsor, passed the U.S. Senate by a 95-2 vote. The legislation, the Fire Grants and Safety Act, would reauthorize the United States Fire Administration (USFA), the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant program and the Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) program, which have benefited numerous local fire departments throughout Alaska.

The programs, set to expire in the coming years, are used by local fire departments to recruit and retain additional personnel, as well as buy up-to-date vehicles and equipment such as breathing air compressors, hoses, nozzles, and more. Fire stations also utilize the programs to fund safety training and technical rescue training, as well as health screenings for firefighters.

“Alaska is no stranger to the dangers and devastation caused by fires, especially as wildfires become larger and more catastrophic. As co-chair of the Senate Fire Caucus, I’m proud that our bipartisan Fire Grants and Safety Act – which will support the brave men and women firefighters, strengthen our workforce, and help local fire departments – passed the Senate,” said Senator Lisa Murkowski. 

On April 18, Senator Murkowski spoke on the U.S. Senate floor in support of the legislation.

fire grants speech

Click here to watch Senator Murkowski’s speech.

Below are statements from Alaskans whose departments have previously benefitted from the programs this bill would extend.

“Juneau was able to purchase 6 thermal imaging cameras for our fire engines and incident commanders. Our previous cameras were 15 years old and were very unreliable and routinely failed during operations. Thermal imaging cameras can quickly locate people trapped in a fire by detecting their body heat. This is especially important in communities with limited personnel, like Juneau, where being efficient is crucial during emergencies. We don’t have a neighboring department to call on for extra manpower on extended incidents. I appreciate Senator Murkowski for advocating for this funding opportunity to continue,” said Juneau Fire Chief, Rich Etheridge.

“Senator Murkowski recently helped introduce bipartisan legislation – the Fire Grants and Safety Act - to extend federal programs that help support local fire departments across the country, which have benefited the City & Borough of Yakutat. Because of these grant programs, Yakutat was able to purchase our first ever self-contained breathing apparatus, or SCBA. This is especially important in communities with limited personnel, like Yakutat, where being efficient is crucial during emergencies. I appreciate Senator Murkowski for advocating for this funding opportunity to continue,” said Jon Erickson EdD Head of Public Safety Yakutat.

“The AFG and SAFER grants have helped small and large communities alike to make meaningful improvements to life safety that otherwise were out of reach financially. These grants have been used to purchase costly equipment such as hydraulic rescue tools and diesel exhaust capture systems in fire stations, saving lives and improving safety for our firefighters and the citizens we serve. Thanks to a SAFER grant, we will improve our effectiveness in the most perilous situations by adding a fourth firefighter to our rescue and aerial companies. We are also using an AFG grant to provide rehabilitative services to injured firefighters, which will get them back to work more quickly and more resilient to injury. None of these would be possible without these critical grant programs and the powerful support of Senator Lisa Murkowski,” said Douglas R. Schrage, Fire Chief of the Anchorage Fire Department.

U.S. Senators Gary Peters (D-MI) and Susan Collins (R-ME) co-led the legislation which, in addition to Senator Murkowski, was also co-sponsored by and Senator Tom Carper (D-DE).

 “Brave and courageous firefighters depend on critical federal programs to safeguard Michiganders and people across the nation from fires and other emergencies,” said Senator Peters. “By extending these important programs, this bipartisan legislation will help the federal government ensure dedicated first responders have the resources they need to safely fight fires and effectively protect communities.”

 “Firefighters across Maine and the country courageously and selflessly put their lives on the line to serve their towns and cities,” said Senator Collins. “I helped create FEMA’s firefighter grant programs in 2003 as part of a bipartisan effort to ensure that firefighters have adequate staffing, equipment, and training to do their important jobs as effectively and safely as possible. By reauthorizing these programs, we can continue to deliver this critical assistance to fire departments and support firefighters as they work to protect lives and property.”

 “The brave firefighters who put their lives on the line every day to serve First State communities deserve the tools, resources and training they need to protect our communities,” said Senator Carper, co-chair of the Congressional Fire Services Caucus. “This bipartisan legislation will ensure that fire departments have the resources they need to keep our communities safe.”