First responder bills hopefully not too late to stem numbers crisis

In case you have not noticed, we have a volunteer firefighter numbers crisis and not enough first responders in many of our communities these days.

It’s been going on for a couple of decades and is nearing a crisis stage.

Changing lifestyles, work and family demands, the costs for necessary equipment and the time required for training have made volunteer firefighting and first responder service a difficult reach.

It may be too late, but the state House Finance Committee is promoting legislation that would at least help with the equipment costs and training difficulties.

A bill sponsored by Rep. Clint Owlett, a Wellsboro Republican, offers volunteer firefighters and first responders tax credits of up to $500 for purchases of equipment out of their own pockets.

The people who show up at every disaster and personal medical crisis should not have to pay for their own equipment, Owlett correctly reasoned. He also was correct in pointing out that the fire companies and first responder organizations are too financially strapped to help with those costs.

His bill is part of a package of legislation that includes property or income tax credits, tuition assistance and loan forgiveness for volunteers. Other measures would provide increased funding opportunities with greater flexibility for emergency responder organizations, expanded access for online training and creation of stress management programs for first responders.

All of this is necessary and overdue.

And hopefully not too late.

No one wants to see the day a fire occurs or a person suffers a heart attack and there is no one to respond to the emergency. Or the response is too late due to inadequate numbers.

But we are nearing that place and action is needed now at the state level to attack the problem.


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