House Approves Bill to Reauthorize the U.S. Fire Administration
(Washington, DC) The U.S. House of Representatives today unanimously passed the U.S. Fire Administration Reauthorization Act of 2008, a bill introduced by Committee on Science and Technology Research and Science Education Subcommittee Vice Chairman Rep. Harry Mitchell (D-AZ), continuing the federal government’s support for the nation’s fire service.
H.R. 4847 - a bill to Reauthorize the U.S. Fire Administration extends the USFA reauthorization by four years and authorizes the agency to focus its resources on important issues facing firefighters today, such as fires in the wildland-urban interface and hazardous material incidents.
The bill was introduced by Rep. Mitchell in December with the co-sponsorship of Subcommittee Ranking Member Phil Gingrey (R-GA) and was approved unanimously by the Committee in February.
"Since Congress created USFA in the early 1970’s, the agency has done an excellent job in providing leadership and assistance to the nation’s fire service," said Rep. Mitchell. "This bill will ensure that USFA continues to provide leadership and resources to the more than 30,000 local fire departments as their communities call on them to take increasingly larger roles in disaster preparedness and response."
"When my mother was a young girl, her home caught fire," said full Committee Chairman Bart Gordon (D-TN). "Her family was able to save their lives and just the clothes on their backs. To this day, she relives that memory every time she hears a fire engine siren. That’s part of the reason why this bill is so important to me. I hope this bill will save others from enduring such a traumatic experience."
The number of fatalities in the U.S. due to fire has decreased significantly since the early 1970’s, however U.S. fire deaths and property losses are still among the highest in the industrial world. "This bill also recognizes the fact that over 100 firefighters lose their lives each year in the line of duty and it directs USFA to promote the adoption of voluntary national consensus standards for firefighter health and safety among fire departments around the country," added Mitchell.
USFA is housed within the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The agency represents the needs and interests of the nation’s fire service at the federal level.
Among its activities, USFA runs the National Fire Academy in Emmitsburg, Maryland which offers advanced training to the nation’s fire service. The Fire Academy makes much of this curriculum available as widely as possible, using the internet and working with state fire academies. USFA also develops fire education and awareness programs for the public, particularly focusing on vulnerable populations like children and the elderly.
Specifically, H.R. 4847:
Extends the authorization to FY2012, and authorizes funding for USFA to fully carryout their mission.
Authorizes the Fire Administration to offer training on firefighting in the wildland-urban interface, response coordination to multiple large-scale events, hazardous material incidents, and advanced emergency medical service issues.
Authorizes USFA to update the National Fire Incident Reporting System to a web-based, real-time reporting system designed to increase participation by local departments and to increase access to the data.
Directs USFA to maintain a database of fire-related research projects funded by USFA and the Assistance to Firefighter Grants program.
Directs the Fire Administrator to promote the adoption of voluntary national consensus standards that can contribute to lowering the number of line of duty deaths suffered by the fire service each year.
Directs the Administrator to ensure coordination of USFA’s activities related to fire-based Emergency Medical Services (EMS) with efforts on EMS across all levels of government.
USFA also operates the National Fire Data Center, which collects and analyses data on fire and other emergency incidents across the country. This data can be used by fire chiefs and other policy makers to make more informed decisions when addressing the fire hazards in their communities. Additionally, the agency works with the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and other federal agencies, like DHS’s Science and Technology Directorate, to develop important fire fighting technologies.
The wildfires in California this past fall dramatically illustrated the level of vulnerability to fire some communities face. In addition to the everyday house fire, firefighters today must be prepared to respond to an increasing array of hazards ranging from floods to terrorist attacks. This legislation insures the continuance of the USFA and the federal support and leadership they provide to the men and women who form the core of the nation’s emergency responder force.
This bipartisan bill has received the endorsement of major fire service organizations, including the International Association of Fire Chiefs, the International Association of Fire Fighters, The National Volunteer Fire Council, the National Fire Protection Association, and the Congressional Fire Services Institute.