By Mike DeNardo

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Philadelphia mayor Michael Nutter and US senator Bob Casey (D-Pa.) today were calling on Congress to fund programs that allow local fire departments to train and hire firefighters.

Speaking at a news conference at 30th Street Station, Casey called for the reauthorization of the Assistance to Firefighters Grant and the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (“SAFER”) grant.

“We want to make sure that we have as many firefighters on the job, able to fight fires, as possible,” he said today.

The SAFER grant would allow Philadelphia to hire 160 firefighters.  Diane Neary, whose firefighter husband Robert was killed in last month’s Kensington warehouse fire (see related story), pleaded for an end to the rolling closures of Philadelphia fire stations known as “brownouts” (see related stories).

“You need to follow and make sure these funds are not delegated for anything other than to stop these brownouts, to support our firemen,” Neary said.

But Philadelphia fire commissioner Lloyd Ayers wouldn’t promise that receiving the SAFER grant would mean an end to brownouts.

“We have a task force that’s working on those very things,” he said today.   “What will it look like?  Will we be continuing the brownouts or not?  So that’s still being studied.”

Casey said he sent a letter to the FEMA administrator asking that Philadelphia be included in any SAFER grants.

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