U.S. Rep. Barbara Comstock’s (R-VA) bill authorizing $750 million to support America’s local firefighters and emergency first responders passed the U.S. Senate by unanimous consent on Dec. 21. The legislation is now headed to President Donald Trump’s desk for his signature.

“I am glad that the United States Senate quickly took up and passed this important legislation that will help our firefighters and paramedics in Virginia’s 10th Congressional District and throughout the nation,” said Rep. Comstock, who introduced H.R. 4661 on Dec. 15.

“This legislation ensures that our nation’s firefighters and paramedics have the tools and training they need to safely fight and prevent devastating fires,” the lawmaker added.

H.R. 4661 will reauthorize the United States Fire Administration and reauthorize $750 million for both the Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) awards and Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant programs.

The bill also includes authorization for specialized training under the AFG program for firefighters, paramedics, emergency medical service workers and other first responders to recognize individuals having a mental illness and how to properly intervene, including through de-escalation techniques, according to the bill.

Rep. Comstock said that AFG and SAFER grant awards provide critically needed advanced technical gear and training for firefighters and first responders and are important to emergency personnel recruitment, hiring and retention. The funds also help save the lives of firefighters, first responders and the public they serve, she said, among other critical functions.

Comstock pointed out that fire and rescue departments in her Virginia district rely on these “vital programs.”

For instance, the Fairfax County and Loudoun County fire and rescue departments since 2002 each have received a total of more than $16 million and over $3.5 million, respectively, in AFG and SAFER program grants, the congresswoman noted.

Loudoun County Fire and Rescue Department Chief Keith Brower said the reauthorization of these programs “demonstrates the continued excellent support of Congress, in particular Rep. Comstock, for the nation’s fire service.”

“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,” Brower added. “This bill is tremendous for career and volunteer firefighters alike.”

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The Ripon Advance
January 2, 2018