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Federal funding to provide firefighter equipment, resources, promote nuclear energy

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The Fire Grants and Safety Act would renew critical grant programs that fund essential equipment and resources for fire stations, and also help hire, train and retain new firefighters.

Originally passed by the Senate in 2023, final passage last week of the legislation includes U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner-supported provisions that will promote nuclear energy deployment across the country.

“During my visits to fire stations across the Commonwealth, I’ve seen firsthand how these grant programs help stations hire and retain firefighters and secure important equipment upgrades. Firefighters put their lives on the line day in and day out to keep our communities safe – the least we can do is make sure they have the equipment and the personnel they need to do their jobs safely. I’m glad we finally got this legislation across the finish line, and I’m also happy to see it take important steps forward in another critical arena – improving the nuclear regulatory space. This legislation invests in our clean energy future by cutting senseless red tape, promoting American energy independence, and paving the way to bring more green jobs and infrastructure to communities across Virginia,” Warner said.

The legislation would reauthorize the Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) program, which provides funding to help firefighters and other first responders obtain critically needed equipment, protective gear, emergency vehicles, training and other resources necessary for protecting the public and emergency personnel from fire and related hazards. The bill would also reauthorize the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant program, which provides funding directly to fire departments and volunteer firefighter interest organizations to help them increase or maintain the number of trained, “frontline” firefighters available in their communities. Finally, it would reauthorize and increase funding for the United States Fire Administration (USFA), the lead federal agency for fire data collection, fire research, and fire service training.

Since 2015, 273 AFG grants and 77 SAFER grants have been awarded to communities throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia. In 2023, 37 awards were made to localities and fire departments across Virginia totaling more than $25 million in funding.

In 2023, the following entities in Virginia received 26 awards totaling over $6 million in funding through the Assistance to Firefighters (AFG) grant program:

  • Isle of Wight County received $959,020
  • The City of Lynchburg received $830,636
  • The City of Alexandria received $600,000
  • Frederick County received $463,450
  • Franklin County received $438,238
  • Chesterfield County received $313,880
  • City of Hopewell received $294,645
  • Loudoun County Fire & Rescue received $278,345
  • Virginia Department of Fire received $203,736
  • Patrick-Henry Volunteer Fire Company, Inc. received $186,857
  • City of Portsmouth received $177,272
  • Poquoson Fire/Rescue received $172,095
  • The Bland County Volunteer Fire Department received $163,476
  • Prince Edward County received $162,585
  • Buena Vista Firefighters received $158,914
  • Bloxom Volunteer Fire Co received $150,000
  • Couple District Volunteer Fire Department received $130,144
  • The Courtland Volunteer Fire Department received $130,144
  • Dolphin Volunteer Fire Department received $126,433
  • Brumley Gap Vol. Fire Department received $102,857
  • City of Danville Municipal Building received $83,740
  • Forest Volunteer Fire Co Foundation received $83,515
  • The Scruggs Volunteer Fire Department and Rescue Squad in Franklin County received $66,666
  • Brookville-Timberville Volunteer Fire Department received $53,181
  • Natural Bridge Volunteer Fire Department received $33,034
  • Woodstock Fire Departmentreceived $19,047

In 2023, the following entities in Virginia received 11 awards totaling over $19 million in funding through the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant program:

  • The County of Albemarle received $7,146,642
  • The City of Suffolk received $4,115,448
  • The City of Manassas Park received $3,582,866
  • International Association of Fire Chiefs received $2,667,697
  • Rappahannock County received $561,617
  • Goochland County received $556,972
  • The Town of Chatham received $204,804
  • Greene County received $176,445
  • The Woodstock Fire Department received $133,043
  • Hanover County received $41,800
  • Stephens City Fire and Rescue Company in Frederick County received $21,068

The Fire Grants and Safety Act also contains provisions from the Warner-supported ADVANCE Act, bipartisan legislation that would make it easier to build nuclear power infrastructure. More specifically, the Fire Grants and Safety Act will facilitate American leadership in nuclear energy, reduce regulatory costs associated with licensing nuclear reactors, incentivize the development of next-generation reactors, strengthen the nuclear fuel supply chain, and allow the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to modernize and address staffing issues. Sen. Warner, a strong supporter of nuclear energy, recently launched the Senate Advanced Nuclear Caucus and has pushed directly on the Department of Defense to ensure consistent, reliable power sources for critical missions, including through the development and deployment of advanced nuclear reactors.

Warner is a strong supporter of our firefighters across the Commonwealth, and previously voted to pass the Fire Grants and Safety Act in April 2023. Since then, he has visited fire stations in Richmond and Suffolk to highlight the urgent need to secure final passage of this legislation. Following wildfires across the Shenandoah Valley in early 2024, Warner met with first responders in Harrisonburg to discuss federal resources for firefighters.

The legislation recently passed with a huge bipartisan margin in the House of Representatives and now goes to President Joe Biden’s desk.

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca J. Barnabi is the national editor of Augusta Free Press. A graduate of the University of Mary Washington, she began her journalism career at The Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star. In 2013, she was awarded first place for feature writing in the Maryland, Delaware, District of Columbia Awards Program, and was honored by the Virginia School Boards Association’s 2019 Media Honor Roll Program for her coverage of Waynesboro Schools. Her background in newspapers includes writing about features, local government, education and the arts.