The U.S. Department of Homeland Security this week opened the application period for its Assistance to Firefighter Grant Program, which extends through April 2, 2004. Fire departments nationwide are encouraged to apply for assistance under the program, which is administered by the Department’s Office for Domestic Preparedness. The program assists rural, urban and suburban fire departments throughout the U.S. in improving the effectiveness of their firefighting operations. Congress appropriated $745.6 million to the program when it enacted the Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act of 2004.