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Tester supports Montana-firefighter relief

by The Western News
| February 5, 2012 4:00 AM

Starting next week, Montana fire departments

will be able to apply for new resources to hire or retain employees

without burdensome federal regulations, Senator Jon Tester

announced today.

 In September, Tester championed a

provision making it easier for small fire departments to apply for

the grants, which allow them to hire firefighters or keep them on

the job. 

Thanks to Tester’s provision, the Federal

Emergency Management Administration will accept grant applications

from Monday, Jan. 30 until Feb. 24.

 Without Tester’s efforts, many of

Montana’s fire departments would not be able to apply for these

critical, job- and life-saving resources. 

That’s because previous restrictions forced

departments to make dramatic cuts or limit personnel decisions in

order to receive funding, exacerbating budget


Great Falls had to turn back a grant awarded

under the old rules in 2008 because it could not afford a

cost-sharing requirement. 

With the new rules, the city intends to apply

for funding for eight new firefighters.

 “We have to let Montana fire

departments do their jobs without tying their hands,” Tester


“Montana’s firefighters need to have the tools

to keep our communities safe without too much red

tape.  Removing these restrictions will give

departments more flexibility, and I’m proud we got this done for

Montana’s first responders.”

 Many small communities across

Montana still struggle to provide emergency services without

raising taxes or laying off firefighters.  The

increased flexibility provided by Tester’s measure will help local

communities who receive these grants avoid difficult decisions.

 “The Montana State Firemen’s

Association appreciates Senator Tester’s dedication and

determination toward fixing this frustrating issue,” said Doug

Neil, the association’s Political Director. 

“Jon’s measure allows fire departments and

cities across Montana to hire the firefighters they need to be

prepared for and respond to our state’s emergency needs.”

Montana Fire Departments seeking to apply for

the grants, known as the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency

Response (SAFER) program, should

 Tester’s office will help fire

departments with their applications.  Fire chiefs are

welcome to call Tester’s Missoula office at (406) 728-303 or toll

free at 866-554-4403.