Letter: Decline in fire volunteers a crisis in Pennsylvania

To The Editor,

Letters1A member of the Pennsylvania Senate was quoted last week as saying the decline of brave, volunteer firefighters has reached a crisis point across Pennsylvania. This sad state is endangering the welfare of all residents across the Commonwealth.

A newspaper article quoted Senator Kim Ward as saying is it well past the time for lawmakers to address this issue. I know some of our local legislators feel the same way.

I was heartened on April 18 at our annual banquet by the awarding of long service awards to members of Longwood Fire Company. Longwood Fire Company President Brad Bowman was awarded a plaque for 40 years of service. He was also presented with the honorary title Chief Emeritus, a designation richly deserved.

Jim Rimmer has been active with our company for 25 years, Dennis Mellinger marked 20 years of service and Tim Moore 15 years. Also, Mike Syska and Paul Dawson were honored for 10 years of service and Mickey Shone and Dave Thomson for five years.

Longwood is blessed is a number of dedicated volunteers who spend hours, time that that give up from being with their families, to train, kept equipment in working order, staff the station and aid citizens in time of emergencies.

We could use more citizen volunteers that has the spirit of Ben Franklin, the founder of volunteer fire departments. None of us can take for granted that fire companies and EMS personnel will automatically respond to our needs. In 1976, according to statistics supplied by state government, Pennsylvania had about 300,000 volunteers but that number has declined to about 50,000 today. This truly is a crisis.

In 2014 citizens called upon Longwood Fire Company 3,030 times, an average of more than eight responses a day, to answer distress calls. There were 619 fire and 2,411 EMS calls.

Besides dedicated volunteers, fire companies such as Longwood need a dedicated funding stream from local and state governments. The cost of keeping the trucks on the road, training, insurance and the other expenses is staggering.

We all must work together to end this crisis.

 A. J. McCarthy

Fire Chief

Longwood Fire Company

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