Federal Aid at Last
The Editor’s Opinion Page
We thumbed through the pages of this issue and several newspapers just before writing our monthly stint and came to the happy conclusion that federal officials have finally become aware of the existence of the fire service. Moreover, they are putting their money where their mouths are.
Dick Sylvia discovered—on a trip to Washington, D.C.—that federal funds are available to the fire service to buy light rescue trucks and ambulances and to train emergency medical technicians. These funds are available through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and, of course, are highway oriented. But by logical extension, we see no reason why a fire department cannot be given funds to buy fire fighting equipment—apparatus and tools— that must be used at the often horrible and multiple vehicular accidents on our highways. Fire safety is just as important as any other safety.
But at least NHTSA does recognize that the fire fighters do need help—money help in large sums—if they are to do a proper job in reducing our highway carnage. After all, ambulance service only comes into the picture when trained help with proper tools have extricated a victim from a wreck—frequently after extinguishing fire and washing down gasoline.
In keeping with this logical extension, we find that local grants are urged in two bills introduced in the House of Representatives. One of the bills introduced by Robert H. Steele (R-Conn.) calls for money to pay 90 percent of the cost of masks and heat-protective clothing, and the other would provide up to half the cost of all fire fighting equipment. Mario Biaggi (D-N.Y.) has announced his intention to introduce a bill similar to Steele’s proposal on masks and protective clothing.
Steele has introduced a bill to establish a national fire academy and also a bill to authorize $15 million for research in the fiscal year ending June 30, 1973.
We also want to point out that the National Commission on Fire Prevention and Control has been provided with $300,000 for the fiscal year 1972. The findings and recommendations of this soimportant commission will, when published and sent to the President, have a tremendous impact on the future of the fire service.
Finally, more than 135 members of Congress have sponsored legislation that would provide compensation for the survivors of fire fighters and policemen killed in the line of duty. Initially, these bills were directed only to police officers, but with the introduction of S2994 by Sen. John McClellan (D-Ark.) and S2995 by Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), fire fighters were included. Title III of both these bills grants $50,000 to the widows of policemen and fire fighters who are killed as a result of a criminal act.
There is more legislation in the works that affects the fire service, and we will keep you informed. But we must remember that when federal aid becomes available, we should be prepared to use it. The recent congressional hearings on the use of federal grants for police enforcement brought out the fact that many police departments had unspent sums that they didn’t know what to do with.
We don’t think this will happen to us, but let’s make sure that no fire department will be caught with its plans down.