The International Association of Fire Fighters is protesting proposed funding cuts for emergency responders in the fiscal year 2005 federal budget.

Funding for the FIRE Act, a grant program that supports fire department purchases of equipment, was cut by 50 percent, from $750 million to $500 million. Initiatives for EMS, wellness/fitness, fire code enforcement, station renovation and education are targeted for elimination.

The SAFER Act is also slated to be axed. The $7.6 billion program would support hiring up to 75,000 firefighters in the next seven years. Two-thirds of U.S. fire departments are under-staffed, according to the National Fire Protection Association.

The IAFF has reacted to the Bush budget axe by endorsing Sen. John Kerry for president. Kerry pledges to put 100,000 more firefighters on the streets if elected.