On Saturday, the Senate passed a $1.1 trillion bill (H.R. 83) to fund most of the federal government through fiscal year 2015. Unfortunately, the legislation will only fund the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) through February 27, 2015.
On December 4, the IAFC, Congressional Fire Services Institute, International Association of Arson Investigators, International Association of Fire Fighters, National Fire Protection Association and National Volunteer Fire Council sent a joint letter to Capitol Hill, expressing concern that the legislation didn't include full-year funding for DHS and fire service programs, such as the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) and the Assistance to Firefighters Grant program.
The letter pointed out that the enactment of short-term funding legislation will delay grant application periods. It also will create uncertainties and delays in agencies' abilities to perform their missions.
The funding bill included $28.3 million for grant programs at the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA). The programs are used to train first responders to respond to hazmat incidents, including the growing number of Bakken crude-oil spills. At the IAFC's request, the bill also authorizes PHMSA to develop web-based hazmat training for all fire departments, including small rural and volunteer departments.
The legislation also increased funding for wildland fire operations at the U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Interior to $2.3 billion and $804.8 million, respectively. Funding for the Volunteer Fire Assistance program decreased slightly to $13 million.
"The IAFC thanks our supporters in Congress for funding programs to improve hazmat response and wildland-firefighting operations," said Chief G. Keith Bryant, IAFC president and chairman of the board. "However, we are concerned that many of the federal emergency-response agencies essentially remain on autopilot until late February. At the start of the next year, Congress must rectify this situation. The IAFC will work to make sure that FEMA, USFA and the rest of DHS are funded for the rest of the year."
About the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC)
The IAFC represents the leadership of firefighters and emergency responders worldwide. IAFC members are the world's leading experts in firefighting, emergency medical services, terrorism response, hazardous materials spills, natural disasters, search and rescue, and public safety legislation. Since 1873, the IAFC has provided a forum for its members to exchange ideas, develop professionally and uncover the latest products and services available to first responders. Learn more