United States Fire Administration: An Overview
United States Fire Administration:
Lennard G. Kruger
Specialist in Science and Technology
Resources, Science, and Industry Division
The U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) — which includes the National Fire
Academy (NFA) — is currently an entity within the Federal Emergency Management
Agency (FEMA) of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The objective of the
USFA is to significantly reduce the nation’s loss of life from fire, while also achieving
a reduction in property loss and non-fatal injury due to fire. The Administration’s
FY2009 budget proposal requested $40.9 million for USFA, a reduction of 5.5% from
the FY2008 level. For FY2009, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved $43.3
million for USFA, while the House Appropriations Committee approved $44.979
million. The Consolidated Security, Disaster Assistance, and Continuing Appropriations
Act, 2009 (P.L. 110-329) — which contains the FY2009 Department of Homeland
Security Appropriations Act — provided $44.979 million for USFA. Meanwhile, the
United States Fire Administration Reauthorization Act of 2008 (H.R. 4847/S. 2606) was
signed into law on October 8, 2008 (P.L. 110-376). This report will be updated as
The U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) is currently an entity within the Federal
Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) of the Department of Homeland Security
(DHS). Its mission is to provide leadership, coordination, and support for the nation’s fire
prevention and control, fire training and education, and emergency medical services
activities, and to prepare first responders and health care leaders to react to all hazard and
terrorism emergencies of all kinds. One of USFA’s key objectives is to significantly
reduce the nation’s loss of life from fire, while also achieving a reduction in property loss
and non-fatal injury due to fire. Although fire loss has improved significantly over the
past 25 years, the fire problem in the United States remains serious. The United States
still has one of the highest fire death rates in the industrialized world. According to the
National Fire Protection Association, in 2006 there were 3,245 civilian fire deaths, 16,400
civilian fire injuries, and an estimated $11.307 billion in direct property loss.1 According
to the U.S. Fire Administration, there were 115 firefighter on-duty deaths in 2007.2
The genesis of USFA and FEMA’s fire prevention and control activities can be
found in the landmark 1973 report of the National Commission on Fire Prevention and
Control,3 entitled America Burning. The Commission recommended the creation of a
federal fire agency which would provide support to state and local governments and
private fire organizations in their efforts to reduce fire deaths, injuries, and property loss.
The Commission recommended that this new agency be placed within the Department of
Housing and Urban Development. Congress instead opted to place the agency in the
Department of Commerce, and with the passage of the Federal Fire Prevention and
Control Act of 1974 (P.L. 93-498),4 the National Fire Prevention and Control
Administration (NFPCA) was established. In 1978, Congress changed the name of
NFPCA to USFA (P.L. 95-422), and in 1979, President Carter’s Reorganization Plan No.
3 placed the USFA within the newly created FEMA. Also in 1979, the National Fire
Academy (NFA) in Emmitsburg, Maryland was opened, offering courses and training to
fire service personnel and other persons engaged in fire prevention and control.
During the early 1980s, the Reagan Administration proposed the elimination of the
USFA (while preserving the Fire Academy). Although Congress did not allow the
termination of the USFA, the agency suffered severe staff reductions and the Fire
Academy was separated from the USFA and housed organizationally with other FEMA
emergency training programs. In 1991, the NFA was subsequently reorganized back into
the USFA, where it remains today.
Currently, the USFA is located on the grounds of the National Emergency Training
Center in Emmitsburg, Maryland. USFA programs include the following:
Data Collection — USFA’s National Fire Data Center (NFDC) administers a
national system for collecting, analyzing and disseminating data and information on fire
and other emergency incidents to State and local governments and the fire community.
The NFDC provides a national analysis of the fire problem, identifying problem areas for
which prevention and mitigation strategies are needed.
Public Education and Awareness — Through partnerships and special initiatives,
USFA involves the fire service, the media, other federal agencies and safety interest
groups in the development and delivery of fire safety awareness and education programs.
These programs are targeted at those groups most vulnerable to the hazards of fire,
including the young, elderly, and disabled.
1 Karter, Michael J., National Fire Protection Association, Fire Loss in the United States During
2 U.S. Fire Administration, On-Duty Firefighter Fatalities in the United States, available at
3 The Commission was created by P.L. 90-259, the Fire Research and Safety Act of 1968.
4 15 U.S.C. 2201 et seq.
Training — USFA’s National Fire Academy (NFA) offers educational opportunities
for the advanced professional development of the mid-level and senior fire/EMS officer
and allied professionals involved in fire prevention and life safety activities. The
Academy develops and delivers educational and training programs with a national focus
that supplement and support State and local fire service training. The NFA also offers
training to support the National Incident Management System Integration Center (NIC)
and nationwide implementation of the National Incident Management System (NIMS).
Research and Technology — Through research, testing and evaluation, USFA works
with public and private entities to promote and improve fire and life safety. Research and
special studies are conducted on fire detection, suppression and notification systems as
well as issues related to firefighter and emergency responder health and safety. Research
results are published and made available to the public free of charge through the USFA
In previous years, the USFA, through FEMA, received its yearly appropriation
through the House and Senate Appropriations Subcommittees on VA, HUD, and
Independent Agencies. Beginning in FY2004, the USFA received its appropriation
through the House and Senate Appropriations Subcommittees on Homeland Security.
Table 1 shows recent and proposed appropriated funding for USFA.
Appropriations. Beginning in FY2004, the USFA was funded through the
Preparedness, Mitigation, Response, and Recovery (PMRR) account within the
Emergency Preparedness and Response Directorate of the Department of Homeland
Security. On July 13, 2005, DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff announced a restructuring
of DHS, effective October 1, 2005. USFA was removed from the PMRR account and
received a separate appropriation (its own line item) under the new DHS Directorate for
Preparedness. The FY2007 Department of Homeland Security appropriations bill (P.L.
109-295) transferred the USFA back to the Federal Emergency Management Agency
FY2008. The Administration’s FY2008 budget request for USFA was $43.3
million. Proposed increases for the USFA included $300,000 for expansion of a distance
learning program and $1 million to develop curriculum for the Preparedness Leadership
Institute. On December 26, 2007, the President signed the Consolidated Appropriations
Act of 2008 (P.L. 110-161), which provided $43.3 million for the USFA. Additionally,
as stated in the Joint Explanatory Statement accompanying P.L. 110-161, the House and
Senate Committees on Appropriations provided $1 million for development of a web-
based version of the National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS), an initiative to
be led by the USFA.
FY2009. The Administration’s FY2009 budget proposal requested $40.9 million
for USFA, a reduction of 5.5% from the FY2008 level. As in past years, the budget
documents do not provide a breakdown of funding for the National Fire Academy.
According to the budget proposal, the reduction is based on several factors including “the
substantial level of funding over the past five years and a reprioritization of FEMA
resources.” The budget proposal further stated that “the reduction in funding will result
in a minimal impact” on USFA program performance. Additionally, the Administration
FY2009 budget transferred the USFA budget from a stand-alone FEMA line item to the
Operations, Management, and Administration (OMA) account within FEMA.
On June 19, 2008, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved the FY2009
appropriations bill for the Department of Homeland Security (S. 3181; S.Rept. 110-396).
The bill provided $43.3 million for USFA, the same level as was appropriated for
FY2008. The Committee maintained a separate line item account for USFA, and stated
its disagreement with the Administration’s request to merge USFA funding into FEMA’s
Management and Administration account. The Committee directed FEMA to submit a
maintenance and modernization plan for the USFA and Emergency Management Institute
campuses, and directed USFA to provide a briefing on the status of upgrades to the
National Fire Information Reporting System (NFIRS).
On June 24, 2008, the House Appropriations Committee approved its version of the
FY2009 appropriations for the Department of Homeland Security, and reported its bill on
September 18, 2008 (H.R. 6947; H.Rept. 110-862). The Committee provided $44.979
million for USFA, an increase of $1.679 million over the FY2008 level. The Committee
also maintained a separate line item account for USFA, and did not agree with the
Administration’s request to merge USFA funding into FEMA’s Management and
Administration account. The Committee included $1.179 million to continue
implementation of NFIRS upgrades and stated that NFIRS should continue to be managed
and operated by USFA. The Committee also included $500,000 for buildings
maintenance on the USFA campus.
The Consolidated Security, Disaster Assistance, and Continuing Appropriations Act,
2009 (P.L. 110-329) — which contains the FY2009 Department of Homeland Security
Appropriations Act — provided $44.979 million for USFA. The DHS explanatory
statement directed FEMA to submit a facilities master plan as detailed in the Senate
report, and to allocate $500,000 to maintenance needs on the USFA campus and $1.179
million to implementation of the National Fire Incident Report System.
Table 1. Appropriations, U.S. Fire Administration
F Y 2008 F Y 2009 F Y 2009 F Y 2009 F Y 2009
(P.L. 110-(Admin.(H.Rept.(S.Rept.(P.L. 110-
U.S. Fire Administration43.30040.91344.979 43.000 44.979
Authorizations. The U.S. Fire Administration Reauthorization Act of 2003 (P.L.
108-169) was signed into law on December 6, 2003. The act reauthorized the USFA
through FY2008 at the following levels: $63 million for FY2005, $64.85 million for
FY2006, $66.796 million for FY2007, and $68.8 million for FY2008. P.L. 108-169 also
reestablished the presidentially appointed position of the U.S. Fire Administrator, which
had been statutorily abolished by the Homeland Security Act of 2002. Additionally, the
legislation directed the USFA to develop new firefighting technologies and standards in
coordination with private sector standards groups and federal, state, and local agencies.
P.L. 108-169 required that equipment purchased with fire grant money meet or exceed
voluntary consensus standards when feasible.
The United States Fire Administration Reauthorization Act of 2008 (H.R. 4847/S.
2606) was signed into law on October 8, 2008 (P.L. 110-376). P.L. 110-376 authorizes
the USFA at $70 million for FY2009, $72.1 million for FY2010, $74.263 million for
FY2011, and $76.491 million for FY2012. Provisions include: authorizing National Fire
Academy training program modifications and reports; directing the National Fire
Academy to provide training on incidents occurring in the wildfire-urban interface, multi-
jurisdictional fires, hazardous materials incidents, and advanced emergency medical
services; authorizing USFA to enter into contracts with one or more nationally recognized
third-party organizations to deliver training; a report on the feasibility of providing
incident command training for fires at ports and in marine environments; national fire
incident reporting system upgrades; sponsoring and disseminating research on fire
prevention and control at the wildland-urban interface; encouraging adoption of national
voluntary consensus standards for firefighter health and safety; establishing a state and
local fire service position at the National Operations Center within DHS; providing
coordination regarding fire prevention and control and emergency medical services; and
expressing congressional support for USFA recommendations for adoption and education
regarding sprinklers in commercial and residential buildings.
Assistance to Firefighters Program (FIRE Act Grants)5
The Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) Program, also known as the FIRE Act
grant program, was established by Title XVII of the FY2001 National Defense
Authorization Act (P.L. 106-398). The program provides federal grants directly to local
fire departments and unaffiliated Emergency Medical Services (EMS) organizations to
help address a variety of equipment, training, and other firefighter-related and EMS needs.
A related program is the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response Firefighters
(SAFER) program, which provides grants for hiring, recruiting, and retaining firefighters.6
Since its inception, the fire grant program has been administered by FEMA/USFA
(FY2001-FY2003), the Office for Domestic Preparedness (FY2004), the Office of State
and Local Government Coordination Preparedness (FY2005), and the Office of Grants
and Training in the DHS Directorate for Preparedness (FY2006). Congressional
appropriations reports have consistently instructed DHS to maintain USFA involvement
in the grant administration process for fire and SAFER grants. The FY2007 DHS
appropriations bill (P.L. 109-295) transferred USFA to FEMA and the fire and SAFER
grants to the Grants Program Directorate in FEMA.
Debate over the USFA budget focuses on whether the USFA is receiving sufficient
funding to accomplish its mission and to enable the USFA to assume an enhanced role
within DHS. Other legislation introduced into the 110th Congress would expand USFA’s
5 For more information on the fire grant program, see CRS Report RL32341, Assistance to
Firefighters Program: Distribution of Fire Grant Funding, by Lennard G. Kruger.
6 For more details on the SAFER grant program, see CRS Report RL33375, Staffing for Adequate
Fire and Emergency Response: The SAFER Grant Program, by Lennard G. Kruger.
role. H.R. 1351, the Firefighters Special Operation Task Force Act, would authorize
USFA to award grants to firefighter task forces for equipment, training, and personnel.
H.R. 4846, the First Line of Defense Infrastructure Improvement Act, would establish a
new grant program within USFA that would primarily fund repairs and renovations to fire
stations located near critical infrastructure. H.R. 6112, the Healthy Firefighters Act,
would authorize USFA to contract with medical research universities to conduct long-
term health monitoring of firefighters who have responded to emergencies in disaster
areas and to consult with the Secretary of Health and Human Services to provide for the
treatment of those firefighters.
Meanwhile, an ongoing issue is the viability and status of the USFA and National
Fire Academy within the Department of Homeland Security. While initially supportive
of the reorganization of FEMA into DHS, many in the fire service community have
cautioned that USFA and NFA programs — which address the day-to-day challenges
faced by fire departments — should not be overshadowed in an organization which
focuses on homeland security and counterterrorism. Since the establishment of DHS in
March 2003, fire service groups have opposed a number of actions DHS has taken with
respect to the USFA and NFA. These include the abolishment of the presidentially
appointed position of U.S. Fire Administrator (subsequently reestablished by enactment
of the USFA Reauthorization Act of 2003); proposed cancellations of some NFA courses
in 2003 due to an across-the-board FEMA budget cut (those NFA courses were
subsequently restored after fire service protests); and the transfer of the fire grants
program from the USFA to the Office for Domestic Preparedness. On July 13, 2005,
DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff announced a restructuring of DHS, effective October 1,
2005. Under this restructuring, USFA was removed from FEMA and located under the
new DHS Directorate for Preparedness. However, in the 109th Congress, Title VI of the
Conference Agreement on the DHS appropriations bill (P.L. 109-295; H.Rept. 109-699),
the Post Katrina Emergency Management Reform Act of 2006, transferred most of the
existing Preparedness Directorate (including the USFA) back to an enhanced FEMA.
Additionally, P.L. 109-295 directed that the Administrator of the USFA remain an
assistant secretary-level position.