Congressman Bill Pascrell

Representing the 9th District of NEW JERSEY

Pascrell Hails Passage of Legislation to Continue, Improve Upon Fire Grant Program

Oct 8, 2004
Press Release

Fire Grant Program Passes Congress - Awaits President's Signature

WASHINGTON - {Congressman Pascrell (D-NJ 8) announced today that the House and Senate gave final approval to a bill reauthorizing the Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program, sending the legislation to President Bush to be signed into law.   The popular program, established in 2000 by Pascrell, commonly known as the FIRE Act, provides peer-reviewed, competitively-awarded grants to fire departments nationwide for the purchase of needed equipment, vehicles and training.

The program is unique in that it provides the grants directly to the departments, rather than through state bureaucracies.  Since its inception, the FIRE Act has distributed more than $1 billion to nearly 17,000 paid and volunteer fire departments nationwide.  More than 20,000 departments have applied for the $750 million available under the program for FY04.

"For too long, the federal government has outright neglected the critical and dire needs of fire departments.  Through the FIRE Act, we have changed that shortsighted policy and I am proud to say that this program will continue," stated Pascrell.  "Thanks to a concerted effort in the House and Senate, cities and towns no longer have to rely solely on raising property taxes and holding bake sales to support their first responders.  Those days are over.  The federal government renewed its commitment to local firefighters and the taxpayers they protect."

"The national FIRE Act was written in New Jersey's Eighth Congressional District and will continue to safeguard urban and suburban neighborhoods throughout.  In these times of terror, it is of utmost importance that we provide our first responders with the vital resources they need to keep us secure at home.  We simply cannot do this on the cheap - lives are at stake."

Authorization for the FIRE Act expired on October 1.  Pascrell, joined by fellow members of the Congressional Fire Services Caucus, introduced HR 4107 earlier this year to reauthorize the program for an additional five years.  This legislation was incorporated into the Defense authorization bill, H.R. 4200, which passed both houses of Congress today.

Specifically, the approved legislation reauthorizes the Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program through FY 2009 at a level of $900 million in FY 2005, $950 million in FY 2006, and $1 billion each year thereafter.  While the bill leaves the FIRE Act mostly unchanged, it does make several programmatic modifications, including transferring the program from the Department of Homeland Security's Office of Domestic Preparedness back to the U.S. Fire Administration; expanding eligibility requirements to include non-profit, non-hospital Emergency Medical Service squads; increasing the grant-size cap; and reducing federal matching requirements for jurisdictions serving more than 50,000 people.

"This isn't a Republican or Democratic issue," said Pascrell.  "Supporting local fire departments is an obligation that cannot be marred by politics.  The FIRE Act has been an enormous boost for our firefighters, who deserve nothing less than the full partnership of the federal government.  This legislation furthers our promise to those who make the ultimate commitment to us every day."

In the first four years of the program, towns in the Eighth Congressional District have been awarded more than $2.6 million in awards, the most recent of which being a
$179,644 grant in August to the West Orange Fire Department for equipment and firefighter safety.

 "I cannot be more proud of the bipartisan teamwork involved in crafting this legislation.  Together, we understand that we must all come together to ensure our firefighters can perform their vital jobs as safely and effectively as possible" said Pascrell.

With broad bi-partisan support, Pascrell's program has grown from $100 million in fiscal year 2001 to $360 million in fiscal year 2002 to $750 million this year. New Jersey Fire Departments have already received more than $17 million during the first four years of Pascrell's program.

The FIRE Act reauthorization is strongly supported by the firefighting community and the Administration.  At a May Science Committee hearing, representatives of the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) and National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC), along with U.S. Fire Administrator R. David Paulison, expressed their strong support of the program and its reauthorization.