Washington, D.C. – On Wednesday, June 4th, Chairman Sherwood Boehlert (NY) convened a hearing of the House Science Committee to discuss legislation that would provide for adequate staffing of firefighters. The Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) Firefighters Act (H.R. 1118) would help communities across America meet minimum staffing standards for the fire services so they have adequate manpower to protect against fires, acts of terrorism, and other hazards. The legislation authorizes funding for the U.S. Fire Administration to award grants to State and local governments to pay the salaries and benefits for new firefighters for three years.
Testifying before the committee were Congressman Curt Weldon (PA), Congressman Bill Pascrell (NJ), and Senator Chris Dodd (CT). A modified version of the SAFER bill was recently incorporated into the Senate Defense Authorization bill, after Senator Dodd introduced it as an amendment. A conference of House and Senate members is currently meeting to discuss differences in the legislation, including the inclusion of the SAFER Act. Congressman Boehlert noted he intends to work with conferees and congressional leaders to ensure the SAFER Act is not only included, but strengthened, in the final Defense Authorization legislation that is sent to the President.
Testifying before the Science Committee, Congressman Weldon said, “The SAFER Act is a necessary piece of legislation that will finally cure the personnel shortfalls that are endangering our communities. My amendment to the Defense Authorization bill will provide career and volunteer fire departments with what they need most while addressing specific issues surrounding volunteer recruitment and retention. At the same time this measure will prevent states from lowering their previous levels of firefighter and EMS funding.”
Also testifying before the Science Committee were Jim Shannon, President of the National Fire Protection Association, Chief Michael Quill of the Auburn, New York Fire Department, Chief Jeff Cash of the Cherryville, North Carolina Fire Department, and Mr. Mike McNeill, 9th District Vice President of the International Association of Fire Fighters.