WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ-09) today announced that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has awarded a new federal FIRE Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) to the North Arlington Fire Department in the amount of $290,548. The grant will help the fire department obtain 40 self contained breathing apparatuses (SCBA) with extra bottles to provide extended operational time, along with an electronic accountability and tracking system that will allow firefighters to locate an injured or disabled firefighter.
“Our firefighters are willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for our communities. It’s our job to help make sure they never have to make that sacrifice,” stated Pascrell, who introduced the Firefighter Investment Response Enhancement (FIRE) Act in March 1999. “This grant will help ensure that the North Arlington Fire Department’s volunteers have every advantage when they face dangerous fires in their community or when they help neighboring communities respond to emergencies. The FIRE Act was written here in the Ninth Congressional District with the purpose of helping communities like North Arlington support their first responders.”
“Federal grants like this are critical as fire houses across our nation struggle with budget constraints," said North Arlington Fire Chief Mark Zidiak, who leads a department of 85 volunteer firefighters. "This equipment not only protects our brave firefighters, but also our residents, and I thank Congressman Pascrell for fighting on behalf of firefighters across our nation to ensure they have the resources they need to keep our communities safe."
"I commend Congressman Pascrell for his diligence and hard work not only on behalf of North Arlington, but on behalf of first responders across our nation," said North Arlington Mayor Peter Massa. "Public safety has always been a top priority for Congressman Pascrell, and these grant dollars will ensure the safety of our firefighters as they put their lives on the line to protect our community."
The AFG program makes direct grants to fire departments to purchase equipment, training, firefighting vehicles, and other fire fighting and fire prevention activities. It also funds Fire Prevention and Safety Grants which are used for fire awareness and prevention activities, as well as fire safety related research. The Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response Grant (SAFER) program makes grants to local fire departments to assist in the hiring of firefighters.
Rep. Pascrell saw the FIRE Act signed into law by President Clinton in 2000. Since the FIRE Act and SAFER were initially authorized, in FY2001 and 2005, respectively, they have provided more than $8 billion in grants to local fire departments, to hire approximately 18,500 firefighters. From FY2001-FY2010 New Jersey received nearly $200 million in grants to hire approximately 740 firefighters.
In December, the U.S. House of Representatives reauthorized - with broad bipartisan support - AFG, SAFER and U.S. Fire Administration (USFA). The reauthorization included many important improvements to AFG and SAFER, including raising current grant caps, reducing the local match under FIRE, significantly simplifying the local match under SAFER, and providing waivers for communities facing significant economic hardship.