IAFC Remarks Regarding Reauthorization of AFG, SAFER, and the U.S. Fire Administration

Chief John Butler, President, International Association of Fire Chiefs

Thank you for joining us today. I am Fire Chief John Butler, Fairfax County (VA) Fire and Rescue and IAFC President and I’m here to discuss the critical role that AFG and SAFER play in supporting fire departments nationwide.

The AFG and SAFER grant programs are lifelines for fire departments across the country. They provide crucial funding to cover operational costs, allowing us to maintain our readiness and effectiveness in serving our communities.

Fire departments provide response for all types of emergencies: fire, EMS, active shooter incidents, wildfires, hurricanes, hazmat incidents, technical rescues, and other types of disasters.

However, we face critical needs, especially because of the COVID-19 pandemic:

  • Fire and EMS departments face staffing, recruitment, and retention challenges nationwide.
    • The supply chain problem increased the cost of fire apparatus and equipment by 20% -25%.
    • The delivery time for a Type 1 fire apparatus was 9 – 14 months. That period has now almost doubled to 25 – 28 months. 

Fire departments are also suffering from shortages in basic requirements. Consider the following examples from the National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA) Fifth Needs Assessment of the U.S. Fire Service:

  • More than half of fire departments have unmet needs in structural firefighting.
  • Only half of all fire departments can equip on-duty first responders with portable radios.
  • Nearly two-thirds of fire departments have firefighters wearing personal protective clothing that is over 10 years old – past the recommended lifespan.
  • Fifty-three percent of all departments cannot equip all firefighters on a shift with self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA).

The AFG and SAFER programs provide funding to help fire departments meet these basic requirements. They help us secure equipment, vehicles, and training resources that are essential for our daily operations. They provide funds to hire and retain firefighters, ensuring that we have adequate personnel to respond to emergencies promptly. 

Without this funding, we would struggle to maintain the level of service our communities rely on. We need to preserve these programs in the future.

We need Congress to pass the Fire Grants and Safety Act to preserve these programs.