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Expanded funding for rural volunteer fire departments gains bipartisan support

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Two firefighters hold a hose spraying water on a vehicle on fire
Matt C

Minnesota Sen. Tina Smith supported the Fire Grants and Safety Act to extend federal funding to support rural emergency and fire personnel. Smith joined the KAXE Morning Show in April 2023 to discuss the bipartisan legislation and its impacts on volunteer fire departments.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Last month, the U.S. Senate passed the Fire Grants and Safety Act, which expanded federal funding for volunteer fire departments and other rural first responders.

“We have 775 fire departments all across Minnesota and 97% of our firefighters are volunteer," Sen. Tina Smith said during a Thursday, April 20, interview on the KAXE Morning Show. "And it is really a challenge for local departments, fire departments and emergency responders, especially in small towns and rural communities, to pay for.”

According to Sen. Lisa Murkowski, a Republican who authored the Fire Grants and Safety Act, fire departments use the programs for a number of reasons, including recruitment and retainment of personnel, equipment, health screenings and safety training.

“Think about it and what it takes to maintain those departments and ... when you call 911 because you’ve had a medical emergency in your home, you need and expect somebody to be there as soon as they possibly can," Smith said.

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