Concern over upcoming federal vote on firefighter funds

By: Jessica Oh

Updated:

Lawmakers in D.C. are expected to renew a program that helps departments across the country hire firefighters. Senate Bill 829 was passed by the Senate in August, but firefighters are growing concerned as an upcoming vote approaches, according to the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF).

If the decision to reauthorize the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response Grant (SAFER) is voted down or not renewed by Dec. 22, firefighters say it could cut staffing across the state. They also fear it will impact how they serve the community.

“We've been asked to serve our citizens in the area that we protect, and without this program, there is some question about whether or not we'll continue to be able to do so,” said Dennis Lawson, the President of the Washington State Council of Fire Fighters. 

According to Lawson, the number of 911 calls is only getting higher, but staffing concerns continue to be an issue. He also fears cuts may impact how firefighters respond to 911 calls.

“This is not some frivolous expenditure,” he said, “there is a lot at risk here.”

Since 2009, more than $300 million has been distributed to fire departments across the country with the most critical needs for staffing. It’s still not enough, according to Ricky Walsh, the 7th District Vice President of the IAFF.

“We have far more requests and grant applications than there is actually money that’s put into the SAFER program,” he said. 

If a decision is not made by the deadline of Dec. 22, it’s possible firefighters may see cuts to federal funding by Jan. 2. If the bill is renewed, funds will remain consistent until 2023. 

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