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Wednesday, December 8th, 2021

Task force launched to address challenges fire departments face in Pennsylvania

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A recently launched joint federal/state task force will address workforce challenges and budgetary faced by volunteer fire companies in Pennsylvania.

The task force was created by U.S. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), Congressional Fire Services Caucus member, and state Reps. Frank Farry (R- Bucks County) and Jennifer O’Mara (D-Springfield Township), who co-chair the Pennsylvania House Fire and Emergency Services Caucus.

Nationwide, community fire departments are struggling to recruit and retain firefighters. Pennsylvania, for example, had 300,000 volunteer firefighters in the 1970s, but less than 40,000 today.

This is an important public safety issue, Fitzpatrick said, as more than 90 percent of Pennsylvania’s fire departments are volunteers.

“This task force will work on the ground level with our communities to address a statewide and national problem that affects the public safety of our homes, our schools, and much more,” O’Mara said. “Our top focus must be to recruit, retain, and protect our country’s bravest men and women.”

Possible solutions to the issue could be tax incentives and pension reforms, increasing the yearly retirement payment, emergency medical technician training for high school students, and a junior firefighter program.

Tax incentives for volunteer firefighters are classified as either state tax credits or charitable deductions.