January 24, 2008

CARDIN, MIKULSKI ANNOUNCE FEDERAL FUNDING FOR WASHINGTON COUNTY FIREFIGHTERS

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Senators Benjamin L. Cardin and Barbara A. Mikulski (both D-Md.) today announced the Mt. Aetna Volunteer Fire Department in Hagerstown has been awarded $43,814 in federal funding through the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program (AFGP). Senator Mikulski is on the Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee that funds the AFGP and fights each year to increase its federal funding. Senator Cardin is on the Budget Committee.

"I know how important this funding is to Maryland communities - often it's the difference between life and death. First responders protect our homes and communities, and the federal government has a responsibility to protect them by providing them with the tools they need to do their jobs safer and smarter," said Senator Mikulski. "Every day when our first responders report for duty, they don't know what they will face. That's why I fight every year for the equipment, training, and staffing our protectors and communities deserve."

"First responders have always been on the front lines, keeping our families and our neighborhoods safe from harm. I thank these brave men and women for their continuing service and sense of duty to our community," said Senator Cardin. "I am proud to support federal investment through local grants like this, which is essential to ensure our community heroes have the equipment and training they need to do their jobs safely and efficiently."

The Mt. Aetna Volunteer Fire Department will use its $43,814 to purchase 17 sets of turn out gear, as well as a specialized gear washer and dryer. This is the fourth award for the department. In 2004, it was awarded $104,112 to purchase new Self Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA) units, hoses and an emergency generator. In 2005, it received $266,000 to purchase a new urban interface pumper-tanker. In 2006, it received $139,650 to acquire portable radios for interoperable communications, as well as a thermal imaging camera. Since 2001, Washington County fire and Emergency Medical Services (EMS) departments have been awarded nearly $6.4 million in AFGP funds. For more information, call Anthony Veney at 301-797-5555.

In his 2008 budget, President Bush only requested $287 million for the AFGP, down from $547 million last year. The Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee increased funding to $560 million in the omnibus spending package that the President signed into law in December. It also includes $190 million, an increase of $75 million, for Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grants, also under the AFGP. President Bush's budget eliminated funding for SAFER grants for the second year in a row.

AFGP grants fund firefighting equipment, personal protection equipment, training, firefighting vehicles, firefighter/first responder safety projects, and staffing recruitment and retention. Since 2001, Maryland fire departments and fire service organizations have received more than $56 million through the AFGP.