Congressman Bill Pascrell

Representing the 9th District of NEW JERSEY

United States Fire Administration Reauthorization Act of 2008

Apr 3, 2008
Floor Speech



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   Mr. PASCRELL. Mr. Chairman, to all of those on both sides of the aisle who made it possible for the reauthorization bill to come to the floor today, I say thank you, and all the services.

   The U.S. Fire Administration, through FEMA, provides the leadership, the coordination, and support services for fire prevention and control, which is critical. I mean, we still lose 100 firefighters, on average, every year. That certainly is unacceptable to any of us on this floor. And we need to work even harder to make sure that our firefighters have the resources and the wherewithal to do the job we ask them to do.

   If you remember the Fire Act we passed before 9/11, this was a response to the very basic needs of the 32,000 fire departments throughout the United States and the one million firefighters. That legislation broke ground because it was a response to needs that we've neglected. We can't expect that every local community in this country has the resources to supply and provide the training and the state-of-the-art equipment to the fire departments throughout America, and so that Fire Act has been so successful.

   There is literally $3.5 billion in applications in the Fire Act, and a tremendous amount of applications for SAFER every year. And we have devised, both of us, on both sides of the aisle, probably the best format of how to judge the competitive applications. We've asked the firefighters to step up to the plate, judged by their peers. But the Fire Administration is partner with all of these peer firefighters who review the applications. In the Fire Act and SAFER bill, this is very unusual, the money goes directly to the departments so that the States cannot skim and the local government cannot skim. So, this is a real competition, and I believe that's how all Federal funds should be used. That's my own personal opinion.

   The Fire Administration has been a true partner for 34 years. The roles and responsibilities of the fire service have evolved for the 1.1 million men and women in fire and emergency services, over 316,000 career firefighters, almost 317,000, and the 824,000 volunteers.

   What I am so thankful for, in terms of the U.S. Fire Administration, Mr. Chairman, is that the U.S. Fire Administration has brought the volunteers and the career firefighters together. This is invaluable.

   The CHAIRMAN. The time of the gentleman from New Jersey has expired.

   Mr. MITCHELL. I yield an additional minute to the gentleman.

   Mr. PASCRELL. I cannot express how important this is. All the competition that existed before 2000, we've gotten out of it, and thanks to the Fire Administration. They are working together, the career firefighters and the volunteer firefighters.

   This is a very important legislation that is going to save lives. And isn't this what we're here for, to do what we can on a Federal level, realizing it's always going to be the local efforts that are going to be most important. But we have a responsibility, and it seems to me today, Mr. Chairman, that we're stepping up to the plate.

   I want to commend Members on both sides, the good doctor and my good friend from the Southwest part of the country. This has brought us together, this legislation, and it is good legislation.