Volunteer fire companies face hard realities
When it comes to volunteer firefighting, it’s a different world from the bucket brigades of the first half of the 20th century.
It’s also a more expensive one. And to that end, the numbers don’t add up when it comes to keeping a volunteer fire company afloat.
A series of stories in the Sun-Gazette detailed those scary numbers.
It costs between $5,700 and $8,600 to outfit a firefighter.
It costs another $600 to train them, a process that includes 192 hours of time.
A new ambulance costs $250,000. A new tanker truck costs $500,000 to $800,000. In a municipality the size of DuBoistown, the annual borough budget is less than the cost of a fire truck.
It costs nearly $1,000 for the training to become an Emergency Medical Technician in an ambulance.
It also takes 50 hours of training and an additional 24 hours in continuing education to maintain the certification.
In the fast-paced, expensive world we live in today, who has the time or money to master the reality of these numbers?
What municipality has it?
The answer is not many.
So the costs go up and the number of volunteer firefighters and EMTs continues to drop.
We have advocated for years the merging of services among neighboring fire companies and where it has been tried it appears to save money and heal some of the volunteer numbers strain. More of that will be needed in the future.
We also wonder if designated funding from state government based on municipal populations is the only realistic way to keep volunteer fire companies afloat in the future.
We suspect that would be a more practical expense than many of the line items on the state budget ledger.
We are certain of this: The numbers problems that populate every facet of the volunteer fire company equation won’t be going away in the future. And few communities can afford a fully paid fire department.
The hard realities of volunteer fire companies must be met with practical solutions.