Today, Congressman Adam Smith (WA-09) voted to provide local firefighters with the tools and resources they need to prevent and fight fires, and keep our communities safe.

“At a time when many towns and cities in Washington state are facing budget shortfalls and cuts to basic services, this bill helps to ease the burden on local fire departments by providing federal funding to help provide training, purchase equipment and vehicles, and hire personnel,” said Congressman Adam Smith. “Countless lives are saved every day by the courageous efforts of first responders, firefighters and EMTs and we must ensure they get the resources they need to protect our communities.”

Specifically, the Fire Grants Reauthorization Act of 2009 authorizes $1 billion in each of fiscal years 2010 through 2014 for the Federal Emergency Management Agency's Assistance to Firefighters Grants program, which provides funds for local fire departments and emergency medical services organizations to purchase equipment. It also authorizes $1.2 billion in each of fiscal years 2010 through 2014 for the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) program, which provides grants for hiring and retaining personnel.

The bill also makes it easier for local fire departments to access these critical funds by lowering matching requirements and modifying time commitments, which will allow more fire stations to apply for the grants.  Grant recipients would be required to match 10% of the grant’s funding, and the bill allows the Administrator of the program to waive or reduce the matching requirements for applicants that have demonstrated economic hardship.

In fiscal year 2008, which is the most current data available, Washington state was awarded nearly $9.5 million through the SAFER Grant Program and nearly $11.4 million through the Assistance to Firefighters Program.