The U.S. House of Representatives on Dec. 18 passed legislation sponsored by U.S. Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-VA) supporting America’s firefighters and other first responders.
Rep. Comstock’s bill, H.R. 4661, which she introduced on Dec. 15, would reauthorize the United States Fire Administration (USFA) and reauthorize $750 million for both Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) awards and Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grants. The programs provide firefighting gear and training, among other necessary functions.
The bill now moves to the Senate for consideration.
“As I travel throughout my district and visit with firefighters and paramedics, I am constantly reminded of the sacrifices they make to protect our neighbors,” Comstock said. “This legislation will … ensure that our nation’s firefighters and paramedics have the tools and training they need to safely fight and prevent devastating fires.”
Comstock added that many firefighting departments in her district rely on these grants in order to maintain high-quality fire and emergency services for their communities.
For instance, Comstock said since 2002, the Fairfax County and Loudoun County fire and rescue departments in Virginia each have received a total of more than $16 million and over $3.5 million, respectively, through the AFG and SAFER programs.
Comstock’s legislation includes a provision that would offer specialized training to firefighters, paramedics, emergency medical service workers, and other first responders on recognizing individuals who have mental illness and how to properly intervene with them, including how to use strategies for verbal de-escalation of a crisis, according to the bill’s text.
Recently, local and national firefighting groups endorsed Comstock’s legislation.
Loudoun County Fire and Rescue Department Chief Keith Brower said that reauthorizing the grant programs “demonstrates the continued excellent support of Congress, in particular Rep. Comstock, for the nation’s fire service,” and he called the bill “tremendous for career and volunteer firefighters alike.”
“These programs greatly assist localities in the areas of firefighter safety, fire and life safety education and improved resourcing for tactical fire operations,” Brower said. “The fire problem in America continues to demand a strong emphasis on fire prevention, adequate staffing and up to date equipment to do the job safely.”
Chief Thomas Jenkins, president and chairman of the International Association of Fire Chiefs, said the organization’s members appreciated House action to preserve the USFA, as well as the AFG and SAFER grant programs.
“These critical programs help local fire departments protect their jurisdictions from the many threats that we face every day,” Jenkins said.