Starting today, the Congressional Fire Services Institute (CFSI) and National Fallen Firefighters Foundation will be accepting nominations for the CFSI/NFFF Senator Paul S. Sarbanes Fire Service Safety Leadership Award. The deadline for submissions is December 6, 2018.
On April 24-25, 2019, the Congressional Fire Services Institute (CFSI) will host the 31st Annual National Fire and Emergency Services Symposium and Dinner in Washington, DC. Once again, the annual tribute to the nation’s fire service is expected to draw over 1,500 fire and emergency services leaders from across the country.
The leadership of the Congressional Fire Services Caucus has selected Senator Lisa Murkowski (AK) to serve as a co-chair. Senator Murkowski assumes the position following the recent passing of Senator John McCain (AZ), a founding co-chair of the Fire Caucus.
Since joining the Senate in 2002, Senator Murkowski has been a tireless advocate for the nation’s fire and emergency services. Throughout her career, she has supported the Assistance to Firefighters (AFG) and Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant programs. She fought for the reauthorization of the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, and was the lead co-sponsor of the Firefighter Cancer Registry Act.
“From my earliest days in the Senate I have built strong relationships with Alaska Fire Chiefs and firefighters – professional, volunteer and wildland. On a national level, I have led on many issues of importance to the fire service. I am proud to accept the invitation to Co-Chair the congressional Fire Services Caucus- a vacancy that was left open after my good friend, Senator John McCain, recently passed. Senator McCain set a high bar, but I am committed to building upon his good work to create a safer future for our firefighters and the communities they risk their lives to protect.”
“Without fail, Senator Murkowski has stood with the nation’s fire service on so many of our issues,“ said Bill Webb, Executive Director of the Congressional Fire Services Institute. “Her level of dedication and commitment to America’s firefighters makes her the logical choice to succeed the late-Senator John McCain as a Fire Caucus Co-Chair. I applaud the decision of the leadership of the Fire Caucus in selecting the Senator to join their ranks. I have no doubt she will continue the tradition of strong, bipartisan leadership that has made the Fire Caucus so successful.”
The Congressional Fire Services Caucus leadership is composed of eight members – four each from the Senate and House. Maintaining the bipartisan spirit of the Caucus, leadership is split evenly between party lines with four Democrats and four Republicans. The other co-chairs include Senator Susan Collins (ME), Senator Tom Carper (DE), Senator Jon Tester (MT), Congressman Peter King (NY-3), Congressman Steny Hoyer (MD-5), Congressman David Reichert (WA-8), and Congressman Bill Pascrell, Jr. (NJ-9).
The Fire Caucus is among the largest caucuses in Congress with nearly 240 members. Members join to learn more about our nation’s fire and emergency services and the federal government’s role in addressing the needs of our nation’s fire and emergency services. A list of current members is located on CFSI’s website. If your member is not on the list, please have them contact CFSI and learn the value in becoming a member.
The Congressional Fire Services Institute (CFSI) is now accepting nominations for the 2019 CFSI/Motorola Solutions Mason Lankford Fire Service Leadership Award. Sponsored jointly by CFSI and Motorola Solutions, the award recognizes individual leadership in advancing fire and life safety initiatives. The award presentation will take place on April 25, 2019 at the 31st Annual National Fire and Emergency Services Dinner in Washington, DC.
(October 5, 2018) – On Thursday, October 4th, the leadership of the Congressional Fire Services Caucus presented 103 American flags to the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation. The flags, which had been flown over the United States Capitol Building at the request of the Fire Caucus, will be presented to the survivors of the firefighters being honored at the 37th Annual National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Service on Sunday, October 7th in Emmitsburg, Maryland.
Senator Jon Tester (MT), a co-chair of the Fire Caucus, presided over the official transfer of the flags to Chief Dennis Compton, the chair of National Fallen Firefighters Foundation (NFFF) Board of Directors. Senator Tester was joined by the Senate Chaplain, Admiral Barry Black, as well as senior staff from the office of Senator Susan Collins (ME), the current chair of the Fire Caucus. Bill Webb, Executive Director of the Congressional Fire Services Institute and Vice-Chair of the NFFF Board, served as the Master of Ceremonies.
103 firefighters will be honored at the Memorial Service, 80 who died in the line-of-duty in 2017, and 23 from previous years. 17 of the firefighters being honored died as a result of 9/11-related illness.
Details about the 37th Annual National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Service, including how to view, can be found on the NFFF website.
(July 25, 2018) – On Wednesday, July 25th, the House Appropriations Committee approved the Fiscal Year 2019 Homeland Security Appropriations Act. The funding bill provides $350 million each for the Assistance to Firefighters (AFG) and Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant programs. This is the same amount as the programs are funded at in the current fiscal year.
The bill also funds the United States Fire Administration (USFA) at $44,993,000, the same amount as requested in the White House’s FY19 budget proposal and $596,000 over the current fiscal year. This amount also includes $1.5 million for infrastructure improvements at USFA’s Emmitsburg, Maryland campus.
Additionally, the bill increases funding for the Urban Search and Rescue System (US&R) to $45,330,000. The program is currently funded at $35,180,000. The White House requested only $27,513,000 for US&R in the Administration’s FY19 budget proposal.
On June 21st, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved S. 3109, the Senate version of the Fiscal Year 2019 Homeland Security funding bill. The House and Senate versions of the spending bill will now be considered by their respective chambers. If approved, the appropriators will meet in conference to resolve any differences in the bills. The current fiscal year ends on September 31st. CFSI will continue to provide updates throughout the appropriations process.
(May 11, 2018) – On Thursday, May 10th, the Senate approved by unanimous consent H.R. 931, the Firefighter Cancer Registry Act. The bill, which was amended by the Senate prior to passage, was unanimously approved by the House on September 12, 2017.
The bipartisan legislation creates a specialized national registry to provide researchers and epidemiologists with the tools and resources needed to improve research collection activities related to the monitoring of cancer incidence among firefighters.
H.R. 931 was introduced by Congressman Chris Collins (NY-27) and Congressman Bill Pascrell, Jr. (NJ-9). Similar legislation, S. 382, was introduced in the Senate by Senator Robert Menendez (NJ) and Senator Lisa Murkowski (AK).
The amended bill will now go back to the House for final passage.
(December 21, 2017) – On December 21st, the Senate approved by unanimous consent H.R. 4661, the United States Fire Administration, AFG, and SAFER Program Reauthorization Act. The House approved H.R. 4661 by unanimous voice vote on Monday, December 18th.
The bill reauthorizes the Assistance to Firefighters (AFG), Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER), and the Fire Prevention and Safety (FP&S) grant programs, as well as the U.S. Fire Administration through September 30, 2023. It contains many of the key recommendations the fire organizations presented to Congress earlier in the year that were incorporated into S.829, the Senate bill to reauthorize the two grant programs that was sponsored by Senators John McCain (AZ) and Jon Tester (MT). The bill also contains a “sunset” provision that would eliminate the grant programs, but the sunset would not take effect until September 30, 2024 unless Congress renews the programs before the deadline date.
“For more than a year, the national fire services organizations have worked together to preserve the Assistance to Firefighters, Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response, and the Fire Prevention and Safety grant programs. The collective efforts of so many individuals and fire organizations made this outcome possible. CFSI takes great pride in playing an integral role in this process,” said Bill Webb, Executive Director of the Congressional Fire Services Institute.
H.R. 4661 will now be sent to the President to be signed into law.
(December 21, 2017) – On December 20th, the House and Senate approved the conference report to H.R. 1, the tax reform bill. While the tax bill could have far reaching implications on individuals, businesses, and local governments, there are some provisions in the bills that have a specific impact on the nation’s fire and emergency services.
The bill classifies “fire protection systems” as an eligible property under Section 179 of the tax code. This provision allows small and medium-sized businesses to fully expense certain types of equipment purchases like machines, equipment, vehicles, and computers. With the expansion of Section 179 to now include fire protection systems, small and medium-sized businesses will be able to fully expense, up to $1 million, the retrofit of a property with automatic fire sprinklers.
The cost of fire in America is enormous. In 2015, fire claimed the lives of 3,280 civilians and led to 15,700 civilian injuries. The direct property damage caused by fire was an estimated $14.3 billion. One of the most effective ways to minimize the loss of life and property to fire is with automatic sprinklers. Current building codes require sprinklers in many of the most vulnerable occupancies, such as student housing, commercial and residential high-rise, and entertainment complexes. Unfortunately, there are still thousands of structures that were built and put in service before sprinklers were required. In many jurisdictions, these structures are grandfathered from current standards despite the dangers of these occupancies. Providing an economic incentive to property owners to do the right thing and retrofit properties with automatic fire sprinklers has the potential to have a significant impact on addressing the nation’s fire problem.
H.R. 1 also increases the cap on allowable annual contributions into a Length of Service Award Program (LOSAP) from $3,000 to $6,000 and establishes a mechanism for the cap to be raised over time with inflation. The current cap was established in 1996 and has not been adjusted since. A LOSAP is a retirement account for volunteer emergency responders in which approximately 20 percent of the 814,850 volunteer firefighters in the United States are enrolled. Many communities provide modest financial incentives to their volunteer firefighters and EMS personnel to boost recruitment and retention and LOSAP is one of the most popular benefits.
H.R. 1 will now be sent to the White House to be signed into law by the President.
One aspect of my job that I enjoy most is traveling to fire service events and having the opportunity to address audiences who are interested in learning about the work being performed by CFSI and the other national organizations on Capitol Hill. It doesn’t matter to me if I have two people in the audience or two hundred. I always look forward to sharing with them CFSI’s efforts to advocate for federal programs and legislation that address the needs and challenges of our one million firefighters and emergency services personnel.