Federal Government Acts To Support Fire Service
The Editor’s Opinion Page
Last month we were pleased to feature the Federal Fire Prevention and Control Act that had been passed by both houses of Congress and was signed by President Ford on October 29. At last the fire service has the attention and support of Washington.
Seed for this act was sown back in 1969 with the passage of the Fire Research and Safety Act that established a 20-man commission (headed by Dick Bland) to evaluate the efficiency of the nation’s fire service. The commission, however,, was not funded until July 1971 and its now famous report, “America Burning,” was made in July 1973. Coincidental with this report, and based on its findings, the Federal Fire Prevention and Control Bill was introduced by Senator Warren Magnuson and Representative Wright Patman. With modifications, it was the bill that became an act with the President’s signature—six years after the wheels began to grind.
It was a long, hard battle to get the attention of the federal government and much of the credit must go to the International Association of Fire Chiefs and the International Association of Fire Fighters. Special credit should, of course, go to Senator Magnuson whose work with, and for, the fire service goes back many years.
“A small but excellent campus with a first-class staff and facilities” was the way that the Senate and House conferees (on the bill) made their feelings known relative to a national fire academy. To which we say “Amen!” We have never felt, as some, that a national fire academy should be involved in basic training. Instead it should be directed to the upper-eschelon officers—a true fire college. And happily, this is what the act calls for.
Another important part of the act authorizes the national fire administration to support vocational training programs, junior college fire service programs and four-year college degree programs in fire engineering. It also provides for loans of up to $2500 a year in payment for college studies.
Note, however, the key words in the above sentence: it provides for loans. Just because a bill authorizes expenditures does not mean that the expenditures will automatically be made. Remember that it took two years after the act was passed to get funding for the national fire commission. What happened, as it frequently does, money authorized for the act was bottled up in the House Appropriations Committee until somebody finally pried it loose.
We don’t say that this will happen to the Federal Fire Prevention and Control Act, but this act does authorize the expenditure of $45.5 million for two fiscal years. The first of these years ends on June 30, 1975, only eight months from the day the President signed the act. And in these eight months $18.5 million must be appropriated.
We feel that the money will be appropriated and, in any event, will keep you informed.