Van Hollen, Cardin Introduce Bill to Fund Vital Firehouse Upgrades
Today, U.S. Senators Chris Van Hollen and Ben Cardin (both D-Md.) introduced legislation to create a new federal funding program to help construct and upgrade fire stations in Maryland and across the country. They announced the bill during a visit to Baltimore County Fire Station No. 4 in Catonsville.
In April 2022, Senator Van Hollen’s office asked the Maryland State Firemen’s Association (MSFA) to conduct a survey of volunteer fire departments (VFDs) across Maryland. The survey revealed that 71 departments across the state need some sort of repair – ranging from renovations, additions, or require entirely new facilities. Nationally, according to a recent report, 43 percent of surveyed fire departments are over 40 years old and are in crucial need of repair. Furthermore, 59 percent of U.S. fire stations lack exhaust emission control, and are not properly equipped with cancer-preventing systems. In addition, the report finds that many fire and EMS stations across the country have no backup power, have outdated ventilation systems and mold, or even lack crew quarters for female personnel.
During today’s press conference, the Senators highlighted that their Fire Station Construction Grants Act will create a $1 billion grant program with the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) to modify, upgrade, and construct fire and EMS department facilities to support our first responders and their work to keep our communities safe.
“Our first responders put their lives on the line every day – running toward danger when others run from it. They have our backs – and it’s our responsibility to have theirs. Ensuring their stations are modern, safe, and meet the full extent of their needs is critical to helping them meet their mission. Yet, close to half of fire stations in America – including at least 71 here in Maryland – are in crucial need of repair. That’s why we’ve introduced this legislation to provide a big funding boost to address the facility needs of our fire fighters and first responders. I’m committed to passing this bill and doing everything I can to support our fire and EMS heroes,” said Senator Van Hollen.
“Maryland’s fire stations are a critical aspect of our infrastructure that must receive strong investments so that our life-saving emergency personnel have what they need to get the job done.It is unthinkable that many of our firefighters depart from and return to century-old firehouses that lack basic climate control or appropriate accommodations for our female firefighters,” said Senator Cardin. “I am proud to have co-sponsored Senator Van Hollen’s important legislation to create a designated federal funding stream for firehouse upgrades and look forward to working with Team Maryland to ensure its timely passage.”
The Senators were joined at the station by Station No. 4 staff along with leaders and members of several local chapters of the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF); the Baltimore County Professional Fire Fighters Association; the Baltimore County Volunteer Fire Association; the Maryland State Firemen’s Association; and Baltimore County Fire Officers Local 964, among others. They were also joined by Congressman Kweisi Mfume, Baltimore County Executive John Olszewski, and other state and local officials.
“Firefighters and emergency medical services (EMS) workers are on the front lines of emergency responses in each of our communities every day. We must invest in the infrastructure they need to do their jobs because they have done more with less for too long,” said Congressman Kweisi Mfume. “I am proud to stand with Senators Van Hollen and Cardin as they introduce the Fire Station Construction Grants Act in the U.S. Senate, companion legislation to a bill I am cosponsoring in the U.S. House of Representatives,” he concluded.
“Baltimore County’s firefighters and EMS workers put their lives on the line every day to protect residents, and they deserve safe and modern facilities,” said County Executive Johnny Olszewski. “I am grateful to Senators Cardin and Van Hollen for supporting first responders with this legislation, which will help with the County’s ongoing efforts to give our local heroes the workplaces they deserve.”
“Baltimore County is an older county with aging infrastructure, including many of our fire stations, some of which date back to the early 20th century. These buildings lack air conditioning, sprinkler systems, basic facilities for women. Retrofitting them is expensive. This new grant program is an unexpected and invaluable tool that would help us catch up and keep up with the latest in building and safety standards,” said Baltimore County Fire Department Chief Joanne Rund.
“Baltimore County Professional Firefighters and paramedics, thank Senator Van Hollen and Senator Cardin for introducing this very important legislation. This legislation will go a long way towards Fire Station upgrades and replacement. We look forward to the continuing the partnership and thank Senator Van Hollen and Cardin for their leadership,” said John Sibiga, President, IAFF Local 1311, Baltimore County Fire Department.
“This important piece of legislation is critical to maintain and improve our public safety infrastructure. We look forward to working with both Senator Cardin and Senator Van Hollen and thank them for their steadfast support of fire, rescue and emergency services,” said Jeff Buddle, President, Professional Firefighters of Maryland & IAFF Local A-19.
“We appreciate the work of Senators Van Hollen, Cardin and Congessman Mfume towards the emergency responders in not only our great state of Maryland but the United States as well. This bill will help Fire, EMS, Rescue companies and departments all over the state of Maryland. Volunteer as well as career stations will benefit of renovations or building new stations to meet the needs of our first responders in the 21st Century,” said Ben Kurtz, President, Maryland State Firemen’s Association.
The Senators’ Fire Station Construction Grants Act authorizes $1 billion in fire station construction grants to be administered by FEMA. Specifically, it directs FEMA to establish a grant program to modify, upgrade, and construct fire and EMS department facilities. These grants can be used for:
- Building, rebuilding, or renovating fire and EMS department facilities;
- Upgrading existing facilities to install exhaust emission control systems;
- Installing backup power systems;
- Upgrading or replacing environmental control systems, such as HVAC systems;
- Removing or remediating mold;
- Constructing or modifying living quarters for use by personnel; and
- Upgrading fire and EMS stations or building new stations to meet modern building codes and standards as set by the National Fire Protection Association and International Code Council.
This legislation is endorsed by the Congressional Fire Services Institute (CSFI), International Association of Fire Chief (IAFC), IAFF, International Code Council (ICC), and National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).
“The Congressional Fire Services Institute thanks Senators Van Hollen and Cardin for their work to improve fire and emergency services facilities across the country,” said Bill Webb, Executive Director of the Congressional Fire Services Institute. “Every day, our nation's firefighters and EMS personnel work hard to protect their communities, but too often, they must conduct their work in fire stations that are outdated. It is imperative that the facilities where these men and women work, sleep, and eat are safe and code-compliant.”
“I thank Senator Van Hollen for introducing this important legislation. A large percentage of the nation’s fire stations are more than 40 years old and require important life safety improvements and modifications to meet the needs of a diverse workforce,” said Chief Kenneth W. Stuebing, BHSc, CCP(f), President of the International Association of Fire Chiefs. “This legislation will provide funding to help fire departments protect their personnel and I look forward to working with Senator Van Hollen to pass it.”
“Fire fighters spend thousands of hours each year working and living in their fire stations. It is unacceptable for them to be forced to stay in cramped, dilapidated, and dangerous quarters. Our IAFF applauds Senators Van Hollen and Cardin for their leadership in fighting to give our brother and sister fire fighters the safe and clean housing they deserve,” said IAFF General President Edward A. Kelly. “The Fire Station Construction Grants Act will be an important tool to help local governments build new fire stations and improve existing ones. I urge Congress to pass this legislation as quickly as possible to ensure our nation’s fire fighters can utilize modern and safe fire stations while also maintaining their readiness between calls.”
“We applaud Senator Van Hollen’s introduction of the Fire Station Construction Grant Act,” said Code Council Chief Executive Officer Dominic Sims, CBO. “Using the most up-to-date codes and standards for fire station construction reflects a strong commitment to the health and safety of our nation’s first responders and helps ensure these important federal investments in critical infrastructure will serve communities for many years to come.”
“NFPA applauds this Senate effort to address significant issues such as mold and other firefighter health issues at aging fire stations that were identified in our 2019 research report and reconfirmed by our recent Needs Assessment of the U.S. Fire Service. Many stations lack proper exhaust ventilation, backup power and facilities for the growing number of female firefighters. We strongly support this legislation introduced by Senator Van Hollen and others to invest in improvements to fire stations across the country,” said Jim Pauley, President and CEO of the National Fire Protection Association.
Text of the Senators’ Fire Station Construction Grants Act is here.
Congressman Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.) has previously introduced this bill’s companion in the U.S. House of Representatives.
High resolution photos are available upon request.
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