February 13, 2008

CARDIN, MIKULSKI ANNOUNCE FEDERAL FUNDING FOR ST. MARY'S COUNTY FIREFIGHTERS

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Senators Benjamin L. Cardin and Barbara A. Mikulski (both D-Md.) today announced the Mechanicsville Volunteer Fire Department has been awarded $124,180 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 Mechanicsville Volunteer Fire Department in St. Mary's County will use its $124,180 to replace hoses that were purchased in the 1980s and are no longer National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) compliant.  The department will also purchase a mobile burn building for training new recruits and recertifying current members.  This is the fourth award for the department.  In 2002, it was awarded $91,742 to purchase Self Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA) equipment and an air compressor, and to provide physicals for their members.  In 2004, it was awarded $76,167 to install a diesel exhaust system and to purchase physical fitness equipment for its members.  In 2005, it was awarded $110,950 to purchase turn out gear, a gear washer and dryer, and individualized face masks.  Since 2001, St. Mary's County fire departments and Emergency Medical Services (EMS) units have received more than $1.3 million in AFGP funding.  For more information, call Chief Carol Craig at 301-884-9818.

In his fiscal year 2009 budget proposal, President Bush cut funding for the AFGP program by 60 percent.  President Bush only proposed to fund the AFGP at $300 million for fiscal year 2009, down from $750 million in fiscal year 2008 - a $450 million cut.  President Bush completely eliminated funding for the third year in a row for Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grants, which are funded under the AFGP.

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 $57 million through the AFGP.