Wednesday July27, 2022
By: Chief Max Dosher
The Park City Fire District joined Tuesday the National Special Districts Coalition (NSDC) to highlight gaps in critical water infrastructure needed to provide adequate firefighting services in communities across the country, and to provide federal lawmakers with recommendations to assist with infrastructure upgrades.
The District was one of 24 water and fire protection district leaders from nine states that participated in the NSDC working group. From this effort, NSDC released a report providing in-depth insights on core issues facing agencies providing water and fire protection services as they fulfill their missions to ensure essential public health and safety services.
As a result, NSDC and a group fire protection and water agency stakeholders recommend four policy actions for federal lawmakers paired with three recommendations for trade associations to aid their members find solutions to this issue.
In the report released on the study, local governments cite the absence of a financial assistance program aimed to ensure adequate water infrastructure coverage for firefighting in or nearby populated areas as a consistent problem. Driving this concern is the high cost of building infrastructure with sufficient water pressure to serve hydrants, establish water storage, and procure fire vehicles. Agencies also outline additional hardships in the report including ability to access existing federal funding programs, interagency communication coordination, and difficulty achieving awards for the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) major fire service grant programs. Nearly all hardships noted in the NSDC report are more pronounced in rural communities.
NSDC and members of the working group formally recommend steps to enhance fire suppression and mitigate fire disaster in communities. They recommend Congress:
- Establish pilot, stand-alone cost share grant programs under FEMA to directly aid all types of local governments to address infrastructure gaps for fire suppression needs.
- Provide enhanced technical assistance for local agencies seeking funding opportunities for water and fire infrastructure.
- Make additional appropriations and provide greater flexibility for FEMA’s Assistance to Firefighters Grant program.
- Direct a FEMA administrative review of how Agency-approved local disaster mitigation plans are developed to ensure all agencies with eligible mitigation projects have an opportunity to participate.
The working group also offered recommendations to their trade associations and other organizations representing water and fire protection agencies to assist their members with these hardships as well. They recommend organizations:
- Facilitate communication and collaboration among fire protection and water services.
- Establish scholarship-style funding opportunities for agencies needing assistance to apply for grant and financing programs.
- Form relationships with reliable grant writing partners to recommend agencies’ use.
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