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Federal fire grant program may continue


The Fire Grants Reauthorization Act recently passed the U.S. House with strong bipartisan support.  The bill extends two grant programs that help fire departments pay for training, equipment, vehicles, and personnel. 

The grant programs have already benefitted fire departments in Cook County.  From breathing apparatus and a thermal imaging camera for Lutsen, to a new four-wheel-drive water tender for the Gunflint Trail.   

Representative Jim Oberstar’s office says that under the programs, 62 grants totaling $4.3 million were made to fire departments in Minnesota’s 8th Congressional District, which includes Cook County.
“Many of these grants went to volunteer fire departments,” said Oberstar.  “These first responders are our first line of defense against any emergency, and they deserve to have the tools and training they need to do their jobs.”

The legislation contains reforms to simplify the grant application process, making it easier for small fire departments with limited resources to apply for the funding.  Oberstar pushed for changes when he learned that the Department of Homeland Security, the agency that administers the program, was requiring departments to demonstrate how they would use the funding to combat terrorism.

“Small fire departments where having to hire grant application writers to fill out complex forms; that’s absurd,” said Oberstar.  “We’ve changed that in this legislation and taken away the need to show a connection to terrorism, our terror in Northeast Minnesota is fire.”

The bill will now be referred to the U.S. Senate, where it is expected to pass with bipartisan support.