Senate passes Interior spending bill; fire programs funded
The Senate has passed by voice vote an $18.5 billion Fiscal Year (FY) 2002 Interior spending bill (H.R. 2217). The bill includes $13.315 million for the Volunteer Fire Assistance (VFA) program and $10 million for the Department of Interior Rural Fire Assistance program (RFA). These funding levels were approved in the House version, which passed in June. The Interior bill, which Congress must pass each year, funds such agencies as the U.S. Forest Service, the National Park Service, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Commission of Fine Arts.
The funding in the Senate bill exceeds the $18.1 billion requested in the President’s budget but is less than the $18.9 billion bill passed by the House of Representatives. The bill will now go to a conference committee, where the differences in the versions will be addressed.
The VFA program, administered by the U.S. Forest Service in conjunction with the State Foresters, is a 50/50 matching grant program for fire departments in communities with populations of fewer than 10,000. The program was funded at $2 million in FY 1999 and at $3.25 million in FY 2000.
The objective of the Department of Interior RFA program is to enhance the fire protection capabilities of rural fire districts in the wildland urban interface. The program will enable districts to implement training, purchase equipment, and conduct prevention activities on a 90/10 cost-share basis. For more information on the VFA program, visit http://www.fs.fed.us/fire/planning/help, or contact your State Forester. For more information on the RFA program, visit http://www.nvfc.org/news/hn_interiorallocation.html.
Study finds majority of firefighter subjects overweight
A study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association (July 2001) says that of 96 full-time firefighters surveyed in a U.S. city, 84 percent were found to be overweight (13 percent obese). A number of survey participants also had higher than acceptable levels of cholesterol, and almost a quarter had high blood pressure.
The findings, researchers point out, could have significance for firefighters’ health and safety, particularly in relation to heart disease. Cardiovascular events have been a leading cause of firefighter line-of-duty fatalities in recent years.
The full study is on pages 807-809 of the July issue of the journal.
NIST and FEMA-USFA establish Web site on fire research activities
The National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Building and Fire Research Laboratory (NIST/BFRL), in collaboration with FEMA’s U.S. Fire Administration (FEMA-USFA) has created a new Web site–www.fire.gov to alert the fire service to emerging fire research activities affecting fire departments.
Legislation would require truss warning signs on new buildings in NY state
The New York state legislature has passed a bill that would require a sign/symbol to be posted on the exterior of new buildings with truss constructions within the state. The objective of the legislation is to save firefighters’ lives, since truss constructions subjected to fire often fail quickly and without warning. If signed into law by Gov. George Pataki, the bill would become law January 1.
LOSAP considered as incentive for volunteers
The Willingboro (NJ) Town is weighing the idea of instituting a Length of Service Awards Program (LOSAP) as a means of offsetting the decline in fire and rescue squad volunteers. Under the state’s LOSAP, municipalities may deposit a minimum of $100 and a maximum of $1,150 per year in a tax-deferred IRA that earns interest for each qualified volunteer firefighter and emergency rescue squad volunteer. The fire company and emergency squad would establish a point system based on criteria such as responding to emergencies, attending training drills and meetings, and undertaking special assignments that would entitle the volunteers to specific annual amounts. The volunteer may withdraw funds from the IRA beginning at the age of 60.
The council will have to adopt an ordinance by August 26 to approve the LOSAP, the voters would have to approve the ordinance in the November election. After voter approval, it would take about a year to implement the program.
[Source: Krystal Knapp, NewJersey.com (New Jersey Online) , July 8, 2001.]
Study identifies populations most at risk from fire
“The rates of injuries related to house fires are highest in elderly, minority, and low-income populations and in houses without functioning smoke detectors,” according to “Deaths and Injuries from House Fires,” a study by Gregory R. Istre, M.D.; Mary A. McCoy, B.S.; Linda Osborn, et al. published in The New England Journal of Medicine (June 21,2001, Vol 344:1911-1916). Therefore, say the researchers, “efforts to prevent injuries and deaths from house fires should target these populations.”
The researchers reviewed data for the city of Dallas, Texas, for the years 1991 through 1997. The data included fire department records pertaining to house fires, excluding those in apartments and mobile homes; logs of patients transported to hospitals by ambulance, hospital admissions, and the medical examiner’s reports of fatal injuries sustained as a result of fire.
The study covered 7,190 house fires in which 223 injuries occurred (91 fatal and 132 nonfatal); the injury rate was 5.2 injured persons per 100,000 population per year. Requests for a reprint of the article may be sent to Dr. Gregory R. Istre, Injury Prevention Center of Greater Dallas, P.O. Box 36067, Dallas, TX 75235. An abstract of the study is available at http://content.nejm.org/cgi/content/short/344/25/1911.
Federal fire fighters presumptive legislation introduced in the House
The Federal Fire Fighters Presumptive Disability Bill (H.R. 2163) would make it easier for federal firefighters to prove that heart and lung disease and certain cancers and infectious diseases are job-related, according to the International Association of Fire Fighters. The legislation, introduced in June, was sponsored by Reps. Ciro Rodriquez (D-TX), Connie Morella (R-MD), Lois Capps (D-CA), Patrick Kennedy (D-RI), and Jo Ann Davis (R-VA). The IAFF is working with federal firefighter locals to gain support for the legislation among members of Congress.
Bill would create retirement accounts for volunteer firefighters
Congressman John Larson (D-CT) has introduced, and Congressman Curt Weldon (R-PA) has cosponsored, the Volunteer Firefighter’s Relief Act (H.R. 1870), which would permit volunteer firefighters to make a tax-deductible contribution of up to $500 per year in “qualified firefighter savings accounts.” This contribution would be in addition to contributions to other IRAs.
Web site offers guidance in college fire safety
The new Web site www.collegefiresafety.org, underwritten by the Victaulic family of companies, offers parents, students, and college administrators information on safety hazards in dorms and residential life-safety technologies. In the future, the site will include a news section, video reports, and a database.