Fairfax, Va. – IAFC leaders met recently with key U.S. administration and congressional leaders to raise awareness in Washington about issues important to the fire and emergency service, including firefighter safety and health issues and fire service federal-grant funding concerns.
Chief Bill Metcalf, IAFC president and chairman of the board, led the group for two days of meetings, April 30 and May 1, to discuss with key decision makers the Assistance to Firefighters (FIRE) Grant program, the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) Grant program, funding for the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) and National Fire Academy (NFA) and the proposed consolidation of Homeland Security Grant programs administered by FEMA.
In addition to Metcalf, leaders participating on behalf of the IAFC were Chief G. Keith Bryant, IAFC first vice president; Chief Rhoda Mae Kerr, IAFC first vice president-elect; Chief Stephen A. Dean, IAFC second vice president; and Mark Light, IAFC CEO and executive director.
The officials met with Jeh Johnson, U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security; Anthony Fox, U.S. Secretary of Department of Transportation; Chief Ernie Mitchell, U.S. Fire Administrator; Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas); Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.); Rep. Roger Williams (R-Texas); and Rep. James Lankford (R-Okla.). The group also met with key Congressional staff in the offices of Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.).
During the meetings, the IAFC leaders requested support for legislative and federal funding priorities (pdf), including asking those present to:
- Support $340 million each for the FIRE and SAFER Grant programs in FY 2015
- Support $44 million for the USFA and NFA in FY 2015
- Ensure that local public-safety agencies are equal partners with the states in deciding how homeland-security grant funding is spent as Congress begins to consider reforming FEMA's homeland-security grant programs
- Cosponsor the Volunteer Responder Incentive Protection Reauthorization Act (S. 501/H.R. 3747)
- Cosponsor the Fire Sprinkler Incentive Act (S. 1163)
- Reexamine the requirement that public-safety agencies vacate the T-Band spectrum and consider the findings of the National Public Safety Telecommunications Council
- Cosponsor and support passage of the Wildfire Prevention Act (H.R. 3333/S. 1396)
- Support making the Hazardous Materials Emergency Preparedness Grants Program more competitive and allow the grant program to fund web-based training
"Our meetings were very successful," said Metcalf, fire chief, North County (Calif.) Fire Protection District. "I believe our message about the challenges we're facing in the fire service and how the federal government can best assist our local fire department and first responders to protect communities was well received."
On Tuesday, April 29, Metcalf testified before the before the House Subcommittee on Emergency Preparedness, Response, and Communications of the Committee on Homeland Security and raised concerns about the administration's proposal to consolidate the 16 homeland-security preparedness grants into one program.
Read more about legislative and federal funding priority issues affecting the fire service.
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