Senators Carper, Peters, Collins & Murkowski’s Bipartisan Legislation to Extend Federal Support for Local Fire Departments Heads to President’s Desk to be Signed into Law

Today, the Senate passed bipartisan legislation authored by U.S. Senators Tom Carper (D-Del.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) to extend federal programs that help support local fire departments across the country. The bill would reauthorize the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant program, the Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) program, and the United States Fire Administration (USFA). The grant programs are set to expire this year and are used by local fire departments to address staffing needs, purchase equipment, develop fire training and education programs, and improve emergency medical services.

The bill passed the Senate in April 2023 with overwhelming bipartisan support before being amended and passed out of the House of Representatives by a vote of 393-13. Today, the Senate passed the amended bill by a vote of 88-2, and it now heads to the President’s desk to be signed into law.

“Firefighters put their lives on the line every day to protect families and communities across the First State and the country. It is our duty as lawmakers to provide the critical tools and training they need to effectively do their jobs, and I’m proud to have led the effort to send the bipartisan Fire Grants and Safety Act to President Biden’s desk,” said Senator Carper, co-chair of the Congressional Fire Services Caucus. “I’m also glad that this bill includes the ADVANCE Act, legislation I led through the Environment and Public Works Committee, to boost development and deployment of new carbon-free nuclear technologies to help us meet our climate goals. That’s what I call a win-win situation, and today I applaud my colleagues for joining us to pass this critical, common-sense legislation.”

Senator Carper spoke on the Senate floor ahead of the bill’s passage. Watch his remarks here.

Fire departments use these federal programs 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 use the programs to fund safety training and technical rescue training, as well as health screenings for firefighters. The Fire Grants and Safety Act reauthorizes SAFER, AFG, and the USFA until 2028. It reauthorizes $95 million for USFA – a nearly $20 million increase from current authorized levels, and extends the authorization for the SAFER and AFG programs.

The bill also includes the ADVANCE Act, led by Senators Carper, Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.). This bipartisan bill would support the deployment of new, carbon-free nuclear technologies and strengthen American leadership on nuclear energy.

The Fire Grants and Safety Act builds on Senator Carper’s legacy of supporting firefighters across Delaware and the country. As co-chair of the Congressional Fire Services Caucus, Senator Carper has long worked with his colleagues to ensure that firefighters are equipped with the tools, training, and resources they need to protect our communities. Earlier this Congress, Senator Carper joined Senator Collins to introduce the Federal Firefighter Cancer Detection and Prevention Act, which would increase prevention services and testing of prostate, colorectal, and breast cancer for federal firefighters.

“Each and every day, firefighters in Michigan and across the nation put their lives on the line to protect our communities. By passing this legislation, Congress has helped ensure these brave heroes have the necessary resources to keep themselves safe in the line of duty,” said Senator Peters, Chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. “My bipartisan bill – soon to be law – will ensure fire departments continue to receive federal resources to purchase lifesaving equipment and hold essential trainings for years to come.”

“Firefighters across Maine and the country courageously and selflessly put their lives on the line to serve their towns and cities,” said Senator Collins. “In 2003, I helped create FEMA’s firefighter grant programs, which provide funding for staffing, equipment, and training to help firefighters to do their important jobs as effectively and safely as possible. I am pleased that Congress has passed our bipartisan legislation to extend these programs that support fire departments and firefighters as they work to protect lives and property.”

“In 2022, over three million acres of land burned in Alaska, accounting for nearly half of the acres burned in the entire United States. Wildfires are becoming more prevalent throughout the country, and resources are stretched. Alaska’s vast geography makes response difficult, whether it’s our first responders heading to a wildfire hundreds of miles away or helping with a house fire in the next village during a snow storm with no plowed roads,” said Senator Lisa Murkowski. “As Fire Caucus Co-Chair, I’m working hard to ensure our first responders have what they need to keep our communities safe. I am proud to be an original cosponsor of this bill which helps provide funding opportunities to help our fire departments with the resources they need to do their critical work in protecting Alaskans and their communities.”

Below are statements in support of the senators’ bipartisan legislation:  

“I thank Congress for passing this critical legislation,” said Fire Chief John S. Butler, President and Board Chair of the International Association of Fire Chiefs. “I would like to thank the leadership of the House and Senate; the Congressional Fire Services Caucus leadership; and Senator Peters and the leadership of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee and the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee for their dedication to passing this legislation. This legislation confirms our nation’s commitment to firefighters and EMS personnel across the nation, who provide lifesaving service to their communities every day.”   

“Volunteer and combination fire and EMS departments struggle to get the funding they need to keep the lights on, fuel the ambulance, and purchase turnout gear,” said National Volunteer Fire Council Chair Steve Hirsch. “Local fundraisers such as chicken dinners can only raise so much. The AFG and SAFER programs are critical to these departments because they allow them to purchase needed equipment and provide recruitment incentives to volunteers to serve their community. The NVFC applauds Chairman Peters, Senator Collins, Rep. Kean, and Rep. Pascrell for their leadership in ensuring the continuation of these critical programs by sending the Fire Grants and Safety Act to the President’s Desk.” 

“The Congressional Fire Services Institute (CFSI) thanks Chairman Peters and Senator Collins for their support of America’s fire and emergency services. Reauthorizing the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) and Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) programs, as well as the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) will help to ensure that fire departments across the country have the necessary support to keep their communities safe,” said President of the CFSI Board of Directors, Jim Estepp.“Chairman Peters and Senator Collins understand how important AFG, SAFER, and USFA are to the work of our country’s fire and EMS personnel. CFSI appreciates the work of Chairman Peters, Senator Collins, and their colleagues on the Congressional Fire Services Caucus to ensure this bill becomes law.”   

“The Fire Grants and Safety Act reauthorizes not only the vitally important AFG and SAFER grant programs, but also the United States Fire Administration.  We thank both the House and the Senate—especially the members of the Congressional Fire Services Caucus—not only for passing this critical legislation, but for their continued support of America’s fire and emergency services. These programs are an essential component in keeping America’s firefighters and the public safe and preventing future loss of life,” said Victor Stagnaro, Chief Executive Officer of the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation. 

“The International Society of Fire Service Instructors (ISFSI) strongly supports the reauthorization of the Staffing for Adequate Fire & Emergency Response (SAFER) program, Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) program, and the U.S. Fire Administration. Investing funds to ensure our firefighters have the resources necessary to protect their communities is essential to ensuring they are able to go home to their families,” said Leigh Hubbard, Executive Director of ISFSI. “We appreciate the bipartisan work that has been done on this vital legislation.” 

“Lives in every state have been saved by AFG and SAFER grants, including the lives of fire fighters. Today’s vote was long overdue. Communities large and small rely on these grants to hire and retain fire fighters and to ensure they have the equipment and training to do the job as safely as possible. Over the years, these programs have been reauthorized by Republican and Democratic congresses committed to protecting our communities and our fire fighters. The IAFF is grateful to Sens. Gary Peters (D-MI) and Susan Collins (R-ME) and Reps. Bill Pascrell (D-NJ) and Thomas Kean (R-NJ) for their leadership in getting the Fire Grants and Safety Act passed. We look forward to President Biden, who has always championed the fire service, signing this act into law,” said IAFF General President Edward A. Kelly

“NFPA is grateful for every Member who has pushed so hard to advance this bipartisan bill to continue the important work of the U.S. Fire Administration, as well as the AFG and SAFER grant programs that are critical to first responders and their safety,” said Jim Pauley, President & CEO, National Fire Protection Association.