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  1. #1
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    Post Pennsylvania's Volunteer Woes

    Volunteer fire companies face money, worker shortages
    johasjl
    JOHNSTOWN, Pa. (AP) - Pennsylvania's volunteer fire departments
    are in a state of emergency, according to legislators and the
    leaders of various companies.
    Chronic volunteer shortages, higher equipment costs and
    unproductive fundraisers have forced fire companies to do more with
    less, department chiefs said. Two state legislative reports - one
    issued last week and another issued last November - also suggest
    it's time for volunteer fire departments to consolidate, The
    Tribune-Democrat of Johnstown reported Sunday.
    Departments' most critical need is finding volunteers. The
    number of volunteer firefighters in Pennsylvania has dropped from
    300,000 in 1976 to 72,000 today, according to a recently released
    state report.
    Volunteer shortages are most evident when there's a daytime
    fire, when most firefighters are working at their paying jobs in
    another town, department chiefs said.
    That was not the case when industry boomed in western
    Pennsylvania, said Richard McPherson, the chief of the West Taylor
    Volunteer Fire Company in Somerset County.
    "Back in the heyday, when everybody worked three shifts, there
    was always somebody around," McPherson said.
    Many volunteer companies serve communities of 10,000 or fewer
    people, so they lack large populations from which to draw their
    volunteers. Also, young people are less interested in firefighting
    nowadays, said Steve Unger, the secretary of the Cambria County
    Firemen's Association.
    Volunteer ranks have taken a hit because the government
    recommends more training than before, some department leaders said.
    It is recommended that entry-level firefighters have 88 hours of
    training.
    The training is not mandatory, but failing to follow government
    standards leaves departments open to lawsuits, said Dan Buck Sr., a
    Somerset firefighter and a training instructor.
    Continuing education keeps firefighters abreast of the latest
    technologies and techniques, but it is also expensive. It costs
    about $7,400 on average to train and equip a firefighter, according
    to the National Volunteer Fire Council.
    Vehicles are especially budget-draining. A new truck could cost
    as much as a high-priced home in some communities.
    "We purchased a new engine in 1983, and it cost $123,000. That
    same vehicle today would cost $300,000," said Chet Borosky, the
    head of Southmont's fire company in Cambria County.
    Companies aim to secure state and federal grants that were
    created after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Many departments also
    receive financial help from the municipalities they protect.
    But volunteer fire departments have come to rely on donations
    from residents and companies. The companies try to rally support
    with dinners, raffles, sandwich sales and other events.
    The dozen volunteers in Jerome's company spend about 80 percent
    of their time raising funds, said Fire Chief Nick Panasci.
    But some departments have canceled events because community
    interest has waned. Hooversville's company ended a weekly bingo
    night it had hosted since the early 1970s because of a lack on
    interest.
    State fire Commissioner Ed Mann said that could be a sign that
    smaller companies should consolidate.
    "In some communities, you could go play bingo every night of
    the week at a different fire station," Mann said. "We're
    competing with each other."

    (Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
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  2. #2
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    There was an article by a South East PA Newspaper in regard to this. The problem is, they are wasting money. Their view of equipping departments is a little wacked. The man had 55 firefighters, he wanted to spend $4,400.00 on bunker gear for every man, an SCBA unit w/ Spare for every man, A pager-A portable radio-and a mobile radio for every man, and a $190.00 blue light for every man.

    WTF!?!?!

    Why don't they just take all the free money and buy all 55 of them a department vehicle?

    He also said that he feels no firefighter should waste their time training if they don't want to. So you'll have 55 exceptionally equipped members; with no knowledge of firefighting whatsoever! PATHETIC.

    These little hick *** towns that are sucking up all the funding to buy trucks that they don't need, and equipment that is not essential.. yet not doing any training at all.. WILL KILL THE FIRE SERVICE IN PA.

  3. #3
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    Originally posted by blueeighty88
    There was an article by a South East PA Newspaper in regard to this. The problem is, they are wasting money. Their view of equipping departments is a little wacked. The man had 55 firefighters, he wanted to spend $4,400.00 on bunker gear for every man, an SCBA unit w/ Spare for every man, A pager-A portable radio-and a mobile radio for every man, and a $190.00 blue light for every man.

    WTF!?!?!

    Why don't they just take all the free money and buy all 55 of them a department vehicle?

    He also said that he feels no firefighter should waste their time training if they don't want to. So you'll have 55 exceptionally equipped members; with no knowledge of firefighting whatsoever! PATHETIC.

    These little hick *** towns that are sucking up all the funding to buy trucks that they don't need, and equipment that is not essential.. yet not doing any training at all.. WILL KILL THE FIRE SERVICE IN PA.
    I don't think that this problem is unique to PA. There was an artilce in the Bergen Record several years ago that highlighted the duplication of equipment and services in the towns in Bergen County, NJ. The same situation exists in many counties in NJ. Of course, it elicited the typical fire service response...kill the messenger (HOW DARE YOU PICK ON THE FIRE SERVICE) instead of looking at the problem and considering that there might be a better way of doing things.

    I have long been a proponent of consolidation. There are many areas, and North Jersey is one of them, where consolidation would undoubtedly result in a more efficient delivery of fire protection. One large department would have the resources that several small FD's would not have. There are so many advantages that it is difficult to list them all here. In addition, there are many succesful models to look at (MD and VA).

    But the one thing that can usually never be overcome is egos. NJ is the home rule capital of the world. I suspect that PA is not much different. When you talk about consolidation, you get the immediate reaction of "there is no problem" followed by "it won't work here". Then you have the time honored "This is an attack on us" to the inevitable "vote the bums out".

    A refusal to consider the merits of consolidation refuses to acknowledge the fact that the only person who really has something to complain about is the person whose house is on fire.

  4. #4
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    In response to George's Post.....

    He's right. I'm a Career Firefighter/EMT working inside a Volunteer System in Northern Delaware {We have 21 Seperate Companies 18 of which utilize some type of Career Staffing}

    Anyway like anyplace else I see daily staffing, money, and Operational Issues that won't change at the county level because as George puts it {And very Well I might add} "There is no problem" followed by "It won't work here" Are phrases I've actually herd. - Everyone moans and complains but does nothing

    A few companies down here took upon them-selves to introduce a multi-station Duty Engine Concept to reduce staffing and response shortages - Sort of a merge if you will. I think it works great but of course the 'Good ole' Boys" go against it because thier mind-set is this is the begining of the end - Staffed Houses / Engines mean we're going all paid.......Grrrr what makes thier brains tick I'll never understand.

  5. #5
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    having sat through a meeting watching how Homeland Security money is divvied up, a little home rule is often a good thing.

    It is my observation that County wide FDs work best in areas where it was set up that way initially. And in a lot of areas, it would be a good thing, about 3-5 years after it happens.

  6. #6
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    Originally posted by blueeighty88
    These little hick *** towns that are sucking up all the funding to buy trucks that they don't need, and equipment that is not essential.. yet not doing any training at all.. WILL KILL THE FIRE SERVICE IN PA.
    Yea...if you read it, that's essentially what the most recent report from the Legislative Budget & Finance Committee, which is what prompted this article, is saying:

    We need to consolidate or merge, plan, prioritize and organize in a more professional fashion, or we're doomed.

    They're right.

  7. #7
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    It often surprises me the lack of consoladation in US departments. Here in Australia, every volunteer station in each state is part of one department. Here in my state of South Australia we have 430 stations in one department, if this were not the case we would not survive, the bulk purchasing power is incredible!
    I know this has been mentioned before, but the wastage must be huge in single station departments, if every truck is a one off then there is no bargaining power, same with turnout gear, heck, even paper for the photocopier!
    We even bulk buy stations!

    At the end of the day it means we put more trucks on the road and get more stations updated, whilst they might not be a Seagrave with all the bells and whistles or 15 bay brick buidlings with a toliet for every person on shift, they are servicable for the job we do.

    Think what you could do if a combined effort was put into place, with the money you guys come up with sometimes you could do a lot of good for the fire service as a whole, not the disjointed effort that seems to be the case at the moment.

    Isn't it more important that every station can do the job with effective equipment than one station doing it with an over the top rig whilst elsewhere in the state someone is doing it with a 60's model Ford C or something similar and second hand turnouts.

    I leave that with you as you are the only people that can give the answers?

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