Fairfax, Va. – Fire Chief John Sinclair, IAFC president and chairman of the board, testified today before a Congressional panel that the Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) program, including the Fire Prevention and Safety grant, and the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant programs provide valued assistance to local fire departments across the country and help them protect their communities.
Sinclair, chief of the Kittitas Valley Fire and Rescue department in Ellensburg, Washington, testified before the House subcommittee on Research and Technology of the Committee on Science, Space and Technology Committee. He asked the committee, chaired by Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-Va.), to reauthorize the AFG and SAFER programs.
“The role of America’s fire and emergency service continues to evolve to cover new missions, such as EMS, hazmat, and terrorism response,” Sinclair said. “The AFG and SAFER grant programs are important partners in helping the nation’s fire and emergency service meet this challenge.”
Sinclair said the AFG program has helped his department protect firefighters.
“Using AFG grants, we purchased personal protective equipment and SCBA for our firefighters,” he said. “These purchases improved their safety and helped improve regional interoperability between local fire departments.”
Sinclair said the SAFER grant program plays a vital role helping local fire departments meet staffing needs. Besides providing matching grants for career firefighters, he said the SAFER grant program also provides grants for volunteer recruitment and retention.
“Approximately 70% of the nation’s firefighters are volunteers. Nevertheless, fire departments face trouble recruiting and retaining volunteers, who must balance firefighting and training requirements with job and family commitments.
“By partnering with state chiefs’ organizations in Virginia, Connecticut and Tennessee, the IAFC is working on SAFER-funded initiatives to help local fire departments recruit and retain volunteers. The Connecticut campaign held 900 events and distributed 68,000 marketing materials, resulting in 400 new volunteer firefighters. The Virginia campaign resulted in more than 1,100 applications in 15 participating departments and 656 new members.”
In addition, Sinclair asked the committee to reauthorize the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) this year.
“It is important that USFA continue to have dedicated funding,” he said. “This funding should be used to continue to develop policy and guidance; revise curricula at NFA; and maintain infrastructure and information technology. I also encourage the USFA to provide guidance to fire departments as they address behavioral health and wellness issues.”
Read Sinclair’s full written testimony.
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