Minnesota members of the Fire Apparatus Manufacturers Association and the Fire and Emergency Manufacturers and Services Association, along with the Minnesota State Fire Chiefs Association, last month presented “Unifying the Voice for the Minnesota Fire Service,” the theme for the 2013 Minnesota Home Day. The the. hosted the event at its facility in South St. Paul.
"Citizens and elected officials need to become more aware of their fire department’s organization and needs,” said State Fire Marshal Jerry Rosendahl, who gave the keynote address.
Rosendahl said budget issues are affecting firefighters' ability to be well-trained and well-equipped to handle the emergencies in local communities. Furthermore, he said that fire departments are left to respond to the community needs at the same high level of expectation even though resources have been reduced.
“We need to make sure that a balance of support and resources from Federal, State, and Local levels continues to exist,” Rosendahl said. Minnesota currently has 784 fire departments and more than 21,000 firefighters, 90% of whom are volunteer or part-time members.
Organizers of Minnesota Home Day aimed to educate legislative staffs on the changing landscapes that affect local fire departments and response efforts. This includes the Full Year Continuing Appropriations Act of 2013 (HR 933), which funded the Assistance to Firefighters Grant program at a level of $337.5 million — far less than the demonstrated need and a 17% decrease from the $405 million funded in FY 2011 and 40% less than the $565 million funded in FY 2009.
Further cuts to the AFG program would leave communities and their first responders short-changed, as local governments continue to struggle with their capital and general-fund budgets, according to organizers. Additionally, local governments reported ending balances, or "reserves," that declined by more than 25% in four years. Confronted with these pressures and conditions, local governments are reducing personnel commitments, delaying capital and infrastructure projects, and cutting local services. These local government fiscal conditions have coincided with significant cuts in the AFG program referenced above.
The event brought together the Minnesota fire service leadership, government officials and industry professionals., Physio Control, Image Trend, Emergency Apparatus Maintenance and sponsored the 2013 Minnesota Home Day.