10th Annual Illinois Fire Service Home Day
Janet Wilmoth, FEMSA Board Member
On Thursday, June 4th, more than 150 people attended the 10th annual Illinois Fire Service Home Day held at the Northeastern Illinois Public Safety Training Academy (NIPSTA) in Glenview, Illinois.
Illinois’ Home Day was created to bring together northern Illinois fire chiefs and state and local legislators to understand firsthand the state of the Illinois fire service and the impact of grant funding received. Illinois has 18,500 career firefighters and 20,000 volunteers.
The meeting was co-chaired by Chief Tom Deegan, Metropolitan Fire Chiefs; Paul Darley, President/CEO, Darley & Co.; and representatives of FAMA/FEMSA GAC. Thirteen Illinois manufacturers, dealers, and service providers also participated in the event. More than 100 Illinois fire chiefs were in attendance at the event in addition to Congressional leaders and staff members.
The 13 legislative staffers in attendance were invited to introduce themselves and who they represent. Representatives Peter Roskam (R-IL, 6th District) and Robert Dold (R-IL, 10th District) addressed attendees through pre-recorded videos.
The featured speaker was Don Mobley, FEMA Region V fire program specialist, focusing on the importance of the DHS Assistance to Firefighters Grants (AFG) and SAFER programs. Mobley stated that nine organizations—including the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC), National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC), and the Congressional Fire Services Institute (CFSI) —represent the fire service. Mobley further encouraged Illinois fire chiefs to, “Make sure you let those organizations know what your needs are.”
Mobley explained that, to date, there have been 61,019 AFG awards and almost $6 billion in awards to fire departments across the nation. For 2015, the AFG is funded at $306 million, SAFER is $340 million and Fire Prevention and Safety at $34 million. Mobley encouraged fire departments to apply for “micro-grants” for items less than $25,000.
“If you have 10-year-old or broken gear, we want to get that replaced,” Mobley said. While the grants do not cover building new fire stations,” he said, “we do offer money for certain [fire station] projects—for fire sprinkler systems and generators. In recent years we have funded station alerting systems.” Mobley added that there is also funding available for behavioral health programs and immunizations.
The Fire Prevention and Safety grants are also well worth considering. “If you want to modernize your inspection programs with iPads to make your program better, we help fund that,” said Mobley.
Tim Sashko, executive director of the Illinois Fire Chiefs Association, provided updates from the 2015 CFSI legislative activities. Among the items reviewed, Sashko cautioned that the cuts to President Obama’s FY2016 budget would reduce AFG and SAFER grants by $5 million each. It would also cut the US Fire Administration’s budget from $44 million to $41.582 million.
Sashko mentioned that the Illinois fire service is asking Congress to support a Fire Sprinkler Incentive Act (FSIA) that would amend the Internal Revenue Code to allow accelerated depreciation of retrofits of commercial and residential buildings with lifesaving sprinkler systems. “It is critically important that we keep working on that effort,” said Sashko.
Jill Ramaker, executive director of NIPSTA, welcomed attendees to the facility and encouraged them to explore the different buildings, vehicles, and displays.