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Sen. Peters visits GR Fire Dept., talks legislation to boost federal funding

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Michigan Senator Gary Peters visited the Grand Rapids Fire Department Headquarters Friday to talk about his efforts to boost federal support for local fire departments.

This comes after the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, which Senator Peters is the chairman of, recently approved Peters’ bipartisan legislation.

“This is one that I prioritize. This is one that I’m passionate about and care deeply about,” Senator Peters said. “The minimum we can do is make sure you have all the equipment to carry out your mission.”

The legislation would reauthorize the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant program, the Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) program and the United States Fire Administration (USFA).

These programs, which local fire departments use to address staffing needs, buy equipment, develop fire training and education programs and improve emergency medical services, are set to expire.

The Grand Rapids Fire Department has received $8.2 million from these programs since 2012.

Senator Peters toured the station Friday and saw a fire safety demonstration using equipment that GRFD bought with money from these federal grants.

Grand Rapids Mayor Rosalynn Bliss, City Manager Mark Washington and Fire Chief John Lehman joined Senator Peters Friday to emphasize the importance of extending these programs.

“That bill is something that will help us immensely and has helped us greatly over the last 20 years,” Chief Lehman said. “It has allowed us to be able to do many programs that we would not necessarily be able to do through our normal budgeting process.

GRFD received $2.8 million from a SAFER grant last fall to hire eight firefighters.

Additionally, the AFG program has allowed GRFD to replace its vehicle extrication equipment, air packs, carbon dioxide sensors, rescue harnesses and fitness equipment.

The money also helped the department launch its effort to give and install free smoke detectors in homes throughout the community.

“All that is not possible just through the funding stream alone. It’s because of people like Captain Ryan Sparks…in writing the grants successfully for us to be able to receive those funds,” Chief Lehman added.