Homeland Security funding could impact local volunteer firefighters

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ALTOONA, Wis. (WEAU) -- Local volunteer fire departments are facing concerns about the grants they use to fund their departments.

Right now their funding is tied to the Department of Homeland Security budget, which is stalled in congress and is only funded through the end of this month.

Altoona Fire Chief Jesse James recently applied for the Assistant to Firefighters Grant, that grant is funded through the Department of Homeland Security's budget.

“The grant itself will assist us and hopefully obtaining necessary equipment we need for our department which will hopefully replace the current SCBA, self-contented breathing apparatus that we use on fire scenes," James said.

If funding for Homeland Security isn't approved the department will have to look at others ways to get funding.

"Worst case scenario we go to city council and we'll put it in under as a capital project or we just have to do some budget amendments," James added.

Township Fire Chief Jack Running says his department received the grant last year; it’s helping to pay for equipment. But even if they get new equipment, with the National Fire Protection Association’s guidelines, in 10 years they’ll have to buy more.

"Whether you've worn it once or 150 times in 10 years it has to go down the road, which costs 3,000 dollars a firefighter," said Running.

On Friday WEAU 13 News reached out to U.S. Senators Ron Johnson and Tammy Baldwin.

Senator Johnson released this statement:

“No one wants to defund the Department of Homeland Security. I certainly want to help DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson succeed in his mission of keeping America safe. That includes providing funding for his department. Unfortunately, Democrats in the Senate are obstructing the Senate's ability even to debate a funding bill, part of a fight that President Obama’s executive actions have provoked. We should debate the bill and fund DHS, and the president should enforce the law.”

Senator Baldwin released this statement:

“As a member of both the Homeland Security and Appropriations Committee , I am a strong supporter of the clean, bipartisan bill that was introduced by Senators Mikulski and Shaheen because it would fund programs that are critical to the nation and to Wisconsin. This bipartisan legislation funds essential resources for volunteer fire departments. These are critical assets for the state of Wisconsin and for Republicans to put firefighter grants at risk with political games is simply wrong.”

Congress is debating the bills to fund the department of homeland security until the end of the fiscal year, but so far, hasn't passed anything.