GLENS FALLS, N.Y. (NEWS10) – On Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer paid a visit to the city of Glens Falls, in one of his annual visits to every county in New York. In the city of Glens Falls, that meant a trip to the city fire department, to talk about an effort to keep firefighters like those in the city equipped for the job.
Schumer stood alongside local officials inside the garage of Glens Falls Fire Department on Ridge Road, and spoke about his plan to keep alive the stream of funding for firefighters generated by the Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) Program and Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) Program. Both programs are currently at risk of coming to an end this year.
“In the last 3 years alone, Capital Region firefighters got $16 million in life-saving federal funding, including $1 million here in Warren and Washington counties,” said Schumer, standing in front of a Glens Falls Fire Department truck. “We can’t let those millions for our local firefighters go up in smoke.”
AFG and SAFER funding go directly to rescue and safety equipment for fire departments. In 2017, Glens Falls received $17,000 through AFG in 2017, which allowed the department to purchase breathing apparatus equipment. Last summer, a $4 million SAFER grant – one of the larger amounts on record – allowed Saratoga Springs Fire Department to hire and train 16 new firefighters. Just last week, Salem’s fire department in Washington County – represented by Fire Chief Steven Saunders – would be receiving its own share of aid shortly.
The pair of programs were last reauthorized for continued funding in 2017, and will run out of money at the end of 2023. Schumer said that the effort to make sure funding is renewed has been bipartisan, spearheaded by the new Fire Grants and Safety Act of 2023, which would renew both programs. Schumer announced his intent to bring that bill to the Senate floor following the Easter recess.
Schumer pointed out that while the quality of firefighting equipment has improved over the decades, costs have more than risen to match. 20 years ago, thermal imaging devices – used to detect fire through walls – saw a cost range in the area of $4,000. Now, improved models run as much as $20,000. In their 20 years of use, the grant programs have delivered nearly $700 million in aid to fire departments across New York.
“What this means to a department is much more than the money,” said Glens Falls Fire Chief Jamie Schrammel. “Our department has received $170,000 over a 20-year period. That doesn’t sound like a lot of money, but that money has gone toward the fire department’s mission. It’s helped to keep our firefighters safe in everything they do on a day-to-day basis, and the situations they get in less dangerous.”
Also in attendance were Glens Falls Mayor Bill Collins, New York State Professional Firefighters Association Secretary/Treasurer Jim McGowen, and NYSPFA District Vice President Andy Hersch.