Local fire departments want to see Fire Grants & Safety Act passed to get access to funding

[anvplayer video=”5174473″ station=”998128″]

(ABC 6 News) – Firefighters have worked tirelessly to put a number of intense fires out across our area ranging from Cannon Falls to Mason City.

Congress has been working to get more federal dollars to local fire departments to help them do their jobs with the Fire Grants and Safety Act. The bill would make it easier for firefighters to use the money for a multitude of items they need like replacing outdated equipment like radios and help in any expenses that may come from injuries on the job.

“We’ve got to have updated equipment for them,” Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar said.

The fire and safety bill is not new, but was set to expire this year. If passed, money would be available to fire departments nationwide through 2030.

“They have got to be able to have the technology especially with the information we’re getting now on firefighters susceptible to cancer and we’ve had 300 die about a year from cancer. So, they’ve got to have good washing machines and dryers and all the updated technology. This helps them to get that,” Klobuchar explained.

Bigger cities like Rochester have full-time firefighters and more resources, but could still use the money to help the people they serve.

“There’s always the possibility that if we’re making, having to make a large purchase of equipment for breathing air packs or something along those lines. Looking into a grant stream of revenue would be something we might explore,” Rochester Fire Department Captain Brett Knapp said.

In rural communities like Pine Island, it’s a different story.

“We’re almost too small to be big and too big to be small,” Pine Island Mayor & Pine Island Fire Department Third Assistant Fire Chief David Friese said.

These firefighters are all volunteers. The money is crucial for retaining staff and keeping equipment up-to-date, but the number of volunteers in departments like Pine Island is shrinking making it harder for them to act on grants alone. Freise says they often get declined applying on their own and this is why collaboration between departments is needed.

“It’s just not obtainable anymore for these individual departments to be standalone when it comes to looking at these funds,” Friese explained.

Freise also mentioned funds for these grants would be best used to train volunteers, not pay them. If a grant were to be used for payroll and disappear, it could raise taxes for residents in a town like Pine Island.

The Fire and Safety bill is in the House waiting to be voted on.