New Federal Funding For Charles County Firefighters Announced

Washington, D.C. – Senators Barbara A. Mikulski and Paul S. Sarbanes (both D-MD) today announced that the Benedict Volunteer Fire Department & Rescue Squad is being awarded $86,589 in federal funding through the Department of Homeland Security’s Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program. Senator Mikulski is on the Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee that funds the Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program and fights each year to increase federal money for the program.

“I’m so proud of Maryland’s firefighters, risking their lives to protect others,” said Senator Mikulski. “But we need to protect our protectors with the best equipment, training and resources. I will keep fighting for a federal investment in the safety of Maryland’s firefighters. Congratulations to the Benedict Volunteer Fire Department & Rescue Squad on being awarded this well-deserved money.”

“As was demonstrated during the 9/11 tragedies and during other emergencies across Maryland and the Nation on an almost daily basis, the heroism and diligence of America's firefighters and first responders is crucial to the health and safety of our communities,” said Sarbanes. “These hard-working firefighters deserve the most-up-to-date equipment, and I am pleased that this funding is being awarded to assist them in their efforts to protect their respective communities.”

The Benedict Volunteer Fire Department & Rescue Squad, in Charles County, will use its award of $86,589 to procure 12 self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) air bottles, 50 individualized face masks, and a thermal imaging camera. The SCBA will replace out-of-date equipment to ensure that firefighters are able to breathe clean, safe air. The department currently has no spares for training, to replace defective units or for their fire boat. These additional units will be used to fill those needs. The individualized face masks will be fitted to individual firefighters, preventing them from inhaling noxious gases in emergency situations. The thermal imaging camera will enable firefighters to more easily locate victims as well as fallen firefighters in emergency situations.

For more information on the Benedict Volunteer Fire Department & Rescue Squad, contact Sean Kerrigan at 301-399-5895.

The Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program is a competitive program that awards one-year grants directly to fire departments nationwide. Fire departments can apply for federal assistance for training and equipment, fire education and awareness programs, or firefighting vehicles. This year, approximately 20,400 departments nationwide applied for funding, totaling more than $2.6 billion in requests. Grants will be awarded weekly until September 2005.

Last year, one in three Maryland fire departments that applied for funding received grants, totaling $8,153,505 - a 100 percent increase from the previous year. This year, the Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security has approved a $700 million budget for the Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program. While this is $200 million over President Bush’s budget allocation, it is a cut of $46 million from last year’s funding level. This will reduce the number of fire departments who will be awarded funding this year.

In 2003, Senator Mikulski introduced an amendment to the Homeland Security spending bill that would have increased federal funding for the Fire Grant Program by $150 million, funding it at its authorized level of $900 million. Senator Mikulski’s amendment failed by a vote of 48-49.

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