Fire Bill Passed by House Goes to Senate Conference
A fire prevention and control bill has been passed by the United States House of Representatives by a 352-12 vote. The bill, H.R. 11989, provides for the establishment of a national fire academy, a research and development program and a national fire data system, among other things.
The vote on April 29 paved the way for the formation of a Senate-House conference committee to reach agreement on the differences between the House bill and the bill previously passed by the Senate, S. 1769. The House, after agreeing on its version, amended S. 1769 by substituting the language of its bill for that of the Senate-approved bill.
The Senate bill reflects the recommendations of the National Commission on Fire Prevention and Control report, “America Burning,” which received the approval of fire service organizations. ‘ The House bill, which was written by the committee on science and astronautics, falls short of the national commission’s recommendations in several respects.
One key difference is that the House bill would establish a bureau of fire safety in the Department of Commerce with a director, appointed by the President, who would report to the assistant secretary of commerce for science and technology. There also would be a fire research center established in the National Bureau of Standards. The Senate proposed unified control of all fire prevention and control activities under an additional assistant secretary of commerce to be appointed by the President. Thus, all efforts would be unified at the assistant secretary level.
Funding is another sharp difference between the two bills. The House bill authorizes $7.5 million in expenditures during fiscal 1975, which starts July 1, whereas the Senate bill authorizes the expenditure of $42.5 million. Moreover, the bureau of fire safety, which would include the national fire academy, would get only $2 million of the House proposed funding. Under the Senate bill, $25 million is authorized for fire prevention and activities, including the fire academy and research programs.
Furthermore, the Senate bill proposes much more extensive aid to local fire departments through grants, contracts and other means, including demonstration projects for new technologies.
The Senate bill provides authorization for expenditures of $127.5 million over three years. Although only one year of funding is provided in the House bill, the committee on science and astronautics, that wrote the bill, estimated that programs during the four years after fiscal 1975 would cost $94.5 million.