WASHINGTON -- Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) today announced a $475,000 federal grant to the Bellows Falls Fire Department to purchase a new ladder truck. It is the largest Homeland Security Department grant this year to a Vermont fire department. Vermonts volunteer and professional firefighters provide an invaluable service, Sanders said. We must increase federal grant programs and help more communities receive the assistance they need and deserve. Being awarded a Fire Act Grant is just huge news for our community, said Bellows Falls Fire Department Chief William Weston. We are now able to replace our 42-year-old aerial ladder that is quickly deteriorating and improve overall fire safety in the community. Sanders has backed a $140 million nationwide increase in federal funds for local fire departments, while President Bush has tried to drastically cut assistance for firefighters. To highlight the importance of Vermont firefighters, Senator Sanders invited U.S. Fire Administrator Greg Cade to an October 27 town meeting in Randolph. About150 firefighters from throughout Vermont attended the session.