WASHINGTON - Congressman Steny H. Hoyer (D-MD) announced today that the Newburg Volunteer Fire Department has been awarded a federal Fire Grant in the amount of $36,000 through the Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program. As co-chair of the Congressional Fire Caucus, Congressman Hoyer was very active in helping establish and fund the Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program, which helps local fire departments in Maryland and across the country buy equipment and provide adequate training.
"The Fire Grant Program provides an important service to local fire departments here in Maryland and throughout the country," said Congressman Hoyer. "Our volunteer and career firefighters sacrifice a great deal to protect our communities and it is our duty to provide them with the equipment and training they need to keep their departments running safely and efficiently."
"It is critical that our firefighters and first responders are provided all available resources to ensure their safety and enhance their ability to protect our communities from harm. I am pleased that the Newburg Volunteer Fire Department is the recipient of a grant that will protect our firefighters and upgrade their equipment," Hoyer concluded.
The Newburg VFD was awarded a federal Fire Grant in the amount of $36,000 under the program area of Fire Operations and Firefighter Safety. The grant will be used to purchase approximately 20 sets of personal protection clothing allowing their firefighters to have proper protection in execution of firefighting and other public service duties. The Department will also be able to purchase a large diameter fire hose.
Newburg VFD Chief Jim Rice said, "we are a relatively new department and we don't have a lot of extra money so it is hard for us to purchase equipment without a grant or donation. Without this grant funding there is no other way for rural departments like ours to purchase this important equipment."
Congressman Hoyer helped start the Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program because fire departments often have difficulty purchasing proper equipment. A ladder truck for a local fire department can run upwards of $750,000 and outfitting one firefighter with turnout gear and breathing apparatus can approach $4,500. In addition, departments must fund training programs for paid and/or volunteer firefighters.
The program funding can be used for the following: turnout gear; breathing apparatus; communications equipment; wellness and fitness programs; computer and technology improvements for record keeping and training purposes; training in fire-fighting, emergency response and arson prevention; improving the enforcement of fire codes; and modifying fire stations and fire training facilities to protect the health and safety of the firefighter personnel.
President Bush's budget blueprint for fiscal year 2002 eliminated funding for the Firefighter program, contending that the fire grant program "does not represent an appropriate responsibility of the federal government." Congressman Hoyer and other members of Congress have historically fought to restore funding to the program, most recently securing $650 million in fiscal year 2005, $150 million more than the President's request for 2005.
Last year, Congressman Hoyer was also successful in securing $65 million in funding for the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response Firefighters (SAFER) Program in the Homeland Security funding bill which passed in the House of Representatives in June. Funding for this historic new federal grant program will help career and volunteer fire departments hire new firefighters, recruit and retain volunteer fire fighters, and provide relief to the thousands of local fire stations across the country that are currently operating short of staff.
Since 2001, Maryland has received nearly $20 million in grant funding from the Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program. Fire departments that have received grants in Maryland's Fifth District include La Plata, Hughesville, Mechanicsville, Solomons, Laurel, Prince George's County, Seventh District, Leonardtown, College Park, Cobb Island, Second District, Brandywine, Greenbelt, Benedict, and Waldorf.