February 04, 2005

Appropriations Amendment Helps Rural, Volunteer Firefighters

Small departments now qualify for DHS training reimbursement

WASHINGTON, D.C. â?? Volunteer and part-time firefighters are a step closer to qualifying for reimbursement from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) when they attend approved terrorism response courses, thanks to an amendment in the Fiscal Year 2005 Homeland Security appropriations bill, Idaho Senators Larry Craig and Mike Crapo announced today. The bill was approved by the Senate Tuesday evening.Currently, only full-time firefighters are compensated for the additional overtime hours they spend in training courses approved by DHSâ?? Office of Domestic Preparedness (ODP). Since volunteer and part-time firefighters do not accumulate enough hours on the job to qualify for overtime, their departments, or the firefighters themselves, bear the costs of attending ODP courses. Fire departments in small, rural communities, whose budgets are already strained, are disproportionately affected by this burden.â??Rural communities, including those along the Canadian border, have an important role to play in preparing for, and responding to terrorist attacks,â?? said Craig. â??Fire departments in small towns must be capable of protecting these borders against the same terrorist threats as those in urban areas, and this change will prepare them to meet those challenges and keep Idahoans safe.â??â??As we saw on 9/11, our countryâ??s first responders are a critical component of our nationâ??s reaction to a terrorist attack,â?? Crapo said. â??While our nation works to prevent another terrorist attack, we must also be well-prepared in the event of a crisis. With so many Idaho fire departments comprised of part-time and volunteer firefighters, it makes sense to enable these brave individuals to receive the important training that full-time firefighters already receive. Idaho firefighters and the communities they protect will both be well-served by this legislation.â??The bill will now go to a House-Senate conference committee, which will resolve the differences between the House and Senate versions.[30]