February 10, 2005

Homeland Security Okays Firefighter Payments

Washington, DC â?? Idaho Senator Mike Crapo says rural firefighters and all other Americans will benefit from an agency decision to allow volunteer and part-time firefighters to be compensated for security training. Crapo spoke today with Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge to thank him for agreeing to the change, which had been under discussion since September. Ridgeâ??s DHS oversees the Office for Domestic Preparedness (ODP), which operates the security training programs. Crapo says of the 26,000 fire departments in the United States, just 7% are staffed solely with full-time firefighters. He commended Secretary Ridge for approving the change that expands the use of ODP grants to include compensating volunteer and part-time firefighters who want to participate in government security training but would not have been compensated before the change. States will now be allowed to determine the compensation levels for local firefighters. â??In rural states like Idaho, many firefighters are volunteers or work part-time,â?? Crapo said. â??They cannot take time from their primary jobs to attend security training sessions which benefit all those within their fire districts. The decision by Secretary Ridge changes the way federal grant money can be used so that firefighters can now be compensated for special training in issues ranging from response to terrorist actions to civil unrest to radiological response.â?? The provision does not create new spending; it authorizes existing grants to be used for compensation of firefightersâ?? expenses. Many of Idahoâ??s fire districts have already received grants through the Department of Homeland Security. â??Both Idahoans and firefighters will benefit when the firefighters are compensated for training,â?? Crapo added. â??This becomes increasingly important for border security issues since Idaho shares an international border.â?? The decision by Secretary Ridge means a legislative effort on the issue will no longer be necessary. Crapo, a member of the Congressional Fire Caucus, joined fellow Idahoan Larry Craig and Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-Michigan), Carl Levin (D-Michigan), Jim Jeffords (I-Vermont) and Jay Rockefeller (D-West Virginia) had been pursuing the legislative fix. # # #