Senate Approves Two Bills Supporting PA’s Fire Companies

Recognizing the major issues facing Pennsylvania’s firefighters, the Senate today (January 28) approved two bills based on recommendations made by a bi-partisan commission established to study emergency services across the Commonwealth, according to Senator Elder Vogel.

“The Senate Resolution 6 Commission built upon the foundation set by the previous Senate Resolution 60 Commission to develop a new set of recommendations that provides the next steps toward providing needed assistance to Pennsylvania’s first responders,” said Senator Vogel. “Using that background information as a guide, these bills help address some of the issues facing Pennsylvania’s fire departments.

Senate Bill 908 would create a voter referendum to expand the Volunteer Fire Company, Ambulance Service and Rescue Squad Assistance program to include career fire and EMS companies. The bill would also increase the maximum loan amounts allowed by the program, expand the allowable list of uses of Fire Relief Funding and review the current funding formula.  It would also move the administration of the Fire Relief Program from the Auditor General to the State Fire Commissioner. 

The program was originally created with a bond issue that was approved by voters in 1976. The referendum would allow the state’s 22 paid companies and 72 combination paid and volunteer companies to access the program. In 2018, $55.1 million was distributed to over 2,500 municipalities to be turned over to fire relief associations.

Senate Bill 910  would extend the life of the Fire Company and Emergency Medical Service Grant Program to June 2024. The program, which was created in 2003, is currently set to expire in June of this year. The bill would also expand the use of the program to include recruitment and retention programs, as well as volunteer fire length of service awards.

According to the State Fire Commissioner, Pennsylvania currently has nearly 2,450 fire companies – including about 2,350 volunteer departments, more than any other state in the nation.

“For more than two decades the Senate has worked to address recruitment, retention and financial issues facing Pennsylvania’s emergency responders,” Senator Vogel said. “These bills build on those efforts.”

Senate Bills 908 and 910 bills now go to the House of Representatives for consideration.

 

Contact:          Matt Parido      (717) 787-3076          mparido@pasen.gov