WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) is cosponsoring the bipartisan Fire Grants and Safety Act, legislation to extend federal programs that help support local fire departments in New Mexico and across the country.
The bill would reauthorize the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant program, the Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) program, and the United States Fire Administration (USFA) through 2030.
The programs are set to expire in the coming years and are used by local fire departments to address staffing needs, purchase equipment, develop fire training and education programs, and improve emergency medical services. Today, the Senate took the first procedural vote to bring the legislation up for consideration.
“Our local firefighters and emergency responders deserve our full support so they can keep up their lifesaving work. Congress needs to act now to renew these federal programs that have helped local fire and rescue agencies all across New Mexico hire and equip our first responders. As our communities in New Mexico continue to face increased fire risks, we also need to invest in better public education and research on fire preparedness and prevention. I will keep working to deliver all of the resources and tools our local fire and rescue departments in New Mexico need to keep all of us safe,” Heinrich said.
Local fire departments use the SAFER and AFG programs to recruit and retain additional personnel, as well as purchase up-to-date vehicles and equipment such as breathing air compressors, hoses, nozzles, and more. Fire stations also utilize these programs provide health screenings for firefighters and first responders and to fund important safety, technical rescue, and emergency medical training. The U.S. Fire Administration is the lead federal agency for fire data collection, public fire education, fire research, and fire service training.
The Fire Grants and Safety Act authorizes $95 million for USFA – a nearly $20 million increase from current levels, and maintains currently authorized levels of funding for the SAFER and AFG programs.
Since 2015, the SAFER program has provided federal grants to support hiring and recruitment at local fire departments in Bernalillo County, Albuquerque, Otero County, Rio Rancho, Las Cruces, Hobbs, Bernalillo, San Juan County, the Abiquiu Fire Protection District, and the Mayhill Volunteer Fire Department.
In that same time period, the AFG program has provided federal funds for equipment, operations, and safety to local and volunteer departments in Mesilla Roswell, San Juan County, the New Mexico Firefighters Training Academy, Las Cruces, Sandoval County, Doña Ana County, Otero County, Albuquerque, Valencia County, Santa Fe County, Carlsbad, Gallup, Rio Rancho, Santa Fe, Silver City, Alamogordo, San Miguel County, the Questa Volunteer Fire Department, Los Alamos County, the Datil Fire District, Angel Fire, the Sierra Bonita Rincon Volunteer Fire Department, and Santo Domingo Fire and EMS.
- The Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response Grants (SAFER) was created to provide funding directly to fire departments and volunteer firefighter interest organizations to help them increase or maintain the number of trained, “front line” firefighters available in their communities.
The primary goal of the Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) is to meet the firefighting and emergency response needs of fire departments and non-affiliated emergency medical service organizations. Since 2001, AFG has helped firefighters and other first responders obtain critically needed equipment, protective gear, emergency vehicles, training and other resources necessary for protecting the public and emergency personnel from fire and related hazards.