WASHINGTON, D.C. (WTAJ) – U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) is co-sponsoring legislation to help construct and upgrade fire stations across the Nation.
The Facilitating Investments Required for Emergency Services to All Towns in Our Nation (FIRE STATION) Act will invest in our public safety and security by creating a $750,000,000 fund within the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA). These funds would be used to build, renovate, and modernize fire and EMS department facilities across the Nation.
“In all kinds of emergencies, firefighters and emergency medical technicians step up to perform essential, life-saving work for our communities,” Senator Casey said. “These heroes have difficult jobs that are too often made harder by crumbling facilities and a lack of resources. The FIRE STATION Act will not only build, renovate, and modernize fire stations across Pennsylvania and our Nation, it will invest in our safety and security and help ensure our first responders are well-equipped and empowered to come to the rescue.”
WTAJ’s Jordan Mansberger caught up with several local fire companies to talk about the bill, but some say it isn’t enough.
Jerry Brant of Patton Fire Company says the proposed bill that is looking to invest more in local fire stations seems similar to one from a few years ago.
It didn’t end up passing — but he hopes this one is different.
“Pennsylvania has well over 2,000 fire departments, so certainly it would be beneficial to them,” Brank said. “Currently there is very limited funding as far as station construction or renovation projects.”
He also added that there needs to be something done to help with the cost of equipment as well.
“It used to be you could outfit a firefighter from head to toe for like 2500 dollars,” Brant said “Now that’s about 4500 dollars.”
Joe Whiteford from Excelsior Fire Department says equipment costs have become unsustainable as they try to upgrade their aging trucks.
“Standing here with an ’01 engine, an ’01 rescue behind you,” Whiteford said. “The ladder truck is an ’08. We’re in the process right now of trying to buy a rescue, we’re looking at about a million dollars, about 1.1 million.”
When it comes to raising money for this new equipment the Chief of Ashville Volunteer Fire Company says constant fundraising to keep up with costs makes it hard on everyone.
“We raise nearly 80% of our operating budget every year,” The chief of Ashville said. “And it’s those same 25 guys that are answering the calls, that are raising the money, that are maintaining the equipment.”
With volunteerism continuing to decline, many departments worry about having enough people available to respond to emergencies.
“The volunteer fire service in Pennsylvania is down 75% in the last forty years.”
All three say that the main problem that they face when recruiting young fire fighters is the time commitment that is involved, but that they’ve been managing to be able to serve their communities as best they can.
According to a recent national report on local fire departments across the U.S., 44% of fire stations are over 40 years old and are in need of significant repairs.
Additionally, 56% of stations lack exhaust emission control and are not properly equipped with cancer-preventing systems.
The survey also finds that many fire and EMS stations across the country have no backup power, have outdated ventilation systems and mold, or even lack crew quarters for female personnel.
This legislation is endorsed by:
- The International Association of Firefighters (IAFF)
- International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC)
- National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC)
- Congressional Fire Services Institute (CFSI)
- National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).
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This legislation was introduced by the following senators and representatives:
- U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD)
- U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK)
- U.S. Senator Jon Tester (D-MT)
- U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH)
- U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD)
- U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI)
- U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI)
- U.S. Representative Bill Pascrell (D-NJ-9) led companion legislation in the House of Representatives