Shortage of volunteer firefighters in Pa. becoming a crisis

Training and fundraising cited for fewer volunteers

  • Scott LaMar

Ninety percent of firefighters in Pennsylvania are volunteers and there are far fewer of them than in the past. There were more than 300,000 volunteer firefighters in the state in the 1970s. Today there are about 38,000. The problem may get worse too because the average volunteer firefighter — at least nationally — is over 40 years old.

The numbers alone indicate lives could be in danger when there is a fire or emergency.

Why aren’t more people volunteering? Many cite time constraints, going through the training required and fundraising by volunteer fire companies.

Mike Ibberson, Jerry Ozog and Justin Eberly appear on Smart Talk on February 13, 2020.

Smart Talk

Mike Ibberson, Jerry Ozog and Justin Eberly appear in the studio on Smart Talk on February 13, 2020. Commissioner Duane Ober joined the conversation by phone.

Moves are in the works on the state level that include tax credits for volunteers. Some municipalities have implemented taxes to help defray expenses but that does little to recruit firefighters and emergency personnel.

Thursday’s Smart Talk addresses the volunteer firefighter shortage and the needs of local fire departments.

Appearing on the program are Jerry Ozog, Executive Director, Pennsylvania Fire & Emergency Services Institute and an active volunteer firefighter in Hampden Township (Cumberland County), Mike Ibberson, Chief, Swatara Township Fire Rescue (Dauphin County), Justin Eberly, Volunteer Firefighter & Active EMT from Cumberland County who is also a Volunteer Recruitment / Retention Trainer for VFIS/Glatfelter Insurance Group, and Duane Ober, Commissioner Warwick Emergency Services Commission (Lancaster County).


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