Federal and state officials have teamed up to address the serious issues facing fire companies in Bucks County and Pennsylvania. Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-1) and State Reps. Frank Farry (R-142) and Jennifer O’Mara (D-165) have formed the Joint Federal-State Task Force.
Lower volunteer numbers, smaller budgets, and mental health issues plague first responders in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. More than 300,000 volunteers served the state in the 1970s. As of 2019, the number is closer to 38,000.
Farry, who also serves as Middletown-Langhorne Fire Chief, has seen these effects first hand. While he assures people volunteers will continue to show up to their homes during emergencies, they are thinly spread. Long hours and an increasing number of calls take their toll on the fewer volunteers.
“As a 30-year volunteer firefighter and a member of the SR6 commission that studied fire and EMS issues in PA, I applaud this joint Federal and State effort to assist our first responders,” said Farry. “It is the responsibility of all levels of government to ensure our first responders have the resources they need.”
Fitzpatrick is a Member of the Congressional Fire Services Caucus. He called the budget and volunteer shortages “an imminent public safety issue.”
“Volunteer fire departments are an incredibly important piece of our communities. This spirit of volunteerism was one that was passed down through generations and has unfortunately slowed in recent years,” said Fitzpatrick. “In a state where over 90% of fire departments are volunteer, these challenges must be addressed. We are beyond a crisis point.
In addition to the joint task force, Farry recently stated several related bills in the state House will be up for a vote before the end of October. They will include tax relief, student debt forgiveness, and mental health services for volunteer firefighters.