Leahy And Dodd Announce Federal Funding To Hire Additional Firefighters In South Burlington

Dodd Created ‘SAFER’ Firefighting Grant Program

SOUTH BURLINGTON, Vt. (Saturday, April 26) – The author of a landmark federal firefighting grant program, U.S. Senator Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), and U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) visited with members of the South Burlington Fire Department Saturday to announce that South Burlington has received a $632,550 Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant. The funding will be used to hire six additional firefighters and to provide more consistent advanced life support services.

Dodd authored the 2003 legislation that created the SAFER grant program to help inadequately staffed fire departments safely respond to fires, emergency medical calls -- and, most recently, terrorism attacks. According to the National Fire Protection Association, a majority of the nation’s fire departments lack adequate staffing to meet their missions. Leahy was a cosponsor of Dodd’s bill. Then-Representative Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) supported the legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives before becoming a senator, and Representative Peter Welch (D-Vt.) is a strong supporter of the program.

“In my more than a quarter-century in the Senate, I’ve been fortunate to achieve some real legislative victories. But none of them was needed more urgently than the passage of the FIRE and SAFER Acts,” said Dodd, co-chair of the Congressional Fire Caucus. “Here in South Burlington and communities across the country, firefighters are the people we depend on to keep us safe, and we in turn must ensure that we provide them with the tools, training, and personnel they need to protect themselves in the line of duty. I am proud that these grants were able to provide South Burlington with an additional six firefighters. These brave men and women will benefit both their fellow firefighters and the South Burlington community.”

“These six firefighters will allow the brave men and women responding to fires in South Burlington to have another partner on the truck with them – increasing staffing from two firefighters to three firefighters on responding engines,” said Leahy, a senior member of the Senate’s Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee. “Funding for this essential service is constantly under attack. This year, as we fund exactly these types of services in Iraq, the President has suggested that Congress eliminate the SAFER grant program. We do not plan to let that happen.”

“This is a perfect opportunity for the South Burlington Fire Department to add needed personnel as the growth of the fire department has not kept pace with the growth of the city,” said South Burlington Fire Chief Doug Brent.

The SAFER program has provided $160 million of support to 398 communities across the country. President Bush has proposed to eliminate funding for future firefighter hiring grants. Dodd, Leahy and Sanders were among a group of senators who signed a letter last month supporting full funding of the SAFER program.

The SAFER grant program provides phased federal funding to municipalities over a five year period to help pay for additional firefighters. The municipalities gradually support the new positions over time. Voters in South Burlington will be asked to approve a plan to fund the new positions on May 20th as part of South Burlington’s regularly scheduled election.

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