US Senators Cardin, Van Hollen Introduce Bill to Fund Critical Firehouse Upgrades

Maryland’s US Senators Chris Van Hollen and Ben Cardin introduced legislation to create a new federal funding program to help construct and upgrade fire stations in Maryland and across the country. They announced the bill during a visit to Baltimore County Fire Station No. 4 in Catonsville.

The Fire Station Construction Grants Act would create a $1 billion grant program with the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) to modify, upgrade, and construct fire and EMS department facilities. This legislation is critical to support our first responders and their work to keep our communities safe.

Photo credit: US Senator Chris Van Hollen

“Our first responders put their lives on the line every day – running toward danger when others run from it. They have our backs – and it’s our responsibility to have theirs. Ensuring their stations are modern, safe, and meet the full extent of their needs is critical to helping them meet their mission,” said Senator Van Hollen.

In April 2022, Senator Van Hollen’s office asked the Maryland State Firemen’s Association (MSFA) to survey volunteer fire departments across Maryland. The survey revealed that 71 departments across the state need some repair – ranging from renovations, additions, or require entirely new facilities.

A recent report shows that 43 percent of surveyed fire departments are over 40 years old and in crucial need of repair. Furthermore, 59 percent of US fire stations lack exhaust emission control and do not have adequate cancer-preventing systems. In addition, the report finds that many fire and EMS stations across the country have no backup power, have outdated ventilation systems and mold, or even lack crew quarters for female personnel.

“Maryland’s fire stations are a critical aspect of our infrastructure that must receive strong investments so that our life-saving emergency personnel has what they need to get the job done. It is unthinkable that many of our firefighters depart from and return to century-old firehouses that lack basic climate control or appropriate accommodations for our female firefighters,” said Senator Cardin. “I am proud to have co-sponsored Senator Van Hollen’s important legislation to create a designated federal funding stream for firehouse upgrades. I look forward to working with Team Maryland to ensure its timely passage.”

The Fire Station Construction Grants Act authorizes $1 billion in fire station construction grants administered by FEMA. Specifically, it directs FEMA to establish a grant program to modify, upgrade, and construct fire and EMS department facilities. These grants are for:

  • Building, rebuilding, or renovating fire and EMS department facilities
  • Upgrading existing facilities to install exhaust emission control systems
  • Installing backup power systems
  • Upgrading or replacing environmental control systems, such as HVAC systems
  • Removing or remediating mold
  • Constructing or modifying living quarters for use by personnel
  • Upgrading fire and EMS stations or building new stations to meet current building codes and standards as set by the National Fire Protection Association and International Code Council.

The Congressional Fire Services Institute (CSFI), International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC), IAFF, International Code Council (ICC), and National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) all endorse the legislation.

“Baltimore County’s firefighters and EMS workers put their lives on the line every day to protect residents, and they deserve safe and modern facilities,” said Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski. “I am grateful to Senators Cardin and Van Hollen for supporting first responders with this legislation, which will help with the County’s ongoing efforts to give our local heroes the workplaces they deserve.”

The text of the Fire Station Construction Grants Act is available here.

Senator Cardin will join the MACo Summer Conference again for his – now traditional and highly anticipated – forum to have an open dialogue with MACo Summer Conference attendees about federal and local issues.

Senator Van Hollen will deliver remarks during the “Foundation of the Future: Infrastructure, Large and Small” general session at the MACo Summer Conference.

The 2022 MACo Summer Conference will take place at the Roland Powell Convention Center in Ocean City, MD, from August 17-20. This year’s theme is “Taking Care of Business.”

Learn more about MACo’s Summer Conference: