Fire and Emergency Service Priorities Heard on Capitol Hill

Fairfax, Va. – The top elected leaders of the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) met this week with key congressional and senate offices to raise awareness on Capitol Hill about issues critical to the association’s 11,000 members and the U.S. fire service.

Fire Chief Rhoda Mae Kerr, president and chairman of the board; Fire Chief John Sinclair, first vice president; and Fire Chief Tom Jenkins, second vice president, met with several members of Congress and key congressional staff April 11–13 in Washington, D.C.

IAFC leaders are seeking congressional support of federal programs that assist the nation’s firefighters and EMS personnel. Of particular concern are the administration’s proposed fiscal year 2017 cuts to major fire and emergency service programs at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The administration’s budget proposal would also attempt to restructure the purpose of programs like the Assistance to Firefighters Grant program.

During the meetings, IAFC leaders’ also discussed how the mission of the fire and emergency service has transformed over the past 30 years:

  • The average fire department can be called on daily to respond to structural fires, EMS calls, hazmat spills, heavy/trench rescue, urban search and rescue, and terrorism response.
  • Since 1980, the number of annual fire department calls has almost tripled (from 10.8 million in 1980 to 31.6 million in 2013).
  • 46% of fire departments provide EMS response. An additional 15% provide both EMS and advanced life support response.
  • While total reported fires have continued to decline over the past 15 years, a National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) report shows this is primarily due to a drop in the number of vehicle fires and outside and unclassified fires. The decline in structure fires has been much smaller. In 2014, structure fires accounted for 38% of reported fires, with home structure fires representing 28% of the total.

“We still have a major problem with fires in the U.S.,” Kerr said. “Home fires still cause the majority of all civilian fire deaths, civilian injuries and property loss due to fire. It’s important that our federal representatives understand this.” 

For 2011, the economic losses due to fire (direct and indirect, reported and unreported) totaled an estimated $14.9 billion. This cost has stayed pretty steady since 1980, according to the NFPA.

Kerr, Sinclair and Jenkins also sought congressional support for the Volunteer Responder Incentive Protection Act (H.R. 2752/S. 609). This bill would reinstate and increase the exclusion for benefits provided to volunteer firefighters and emergency medical responders by raising the base from $360 to $600 annually and extending coverage through the 2017 tax year.

More information about the IAFC’s federal funding and legislative priorities is available from the IAFC website.

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
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