Volunteer Fire Departments Getting Financial Boost from the State

HARRISBURG, Pa. -- The Pennsylvania Auditor General's Office announced it is releasing more than $55 million in funding to thousands of volunteer fire departments.

Officials say the money will be distributed based on population and the number of volunteer fire departments.

Excluding Philadelphia, all of the state's remaining 66 counties will receive money. That includes at least $57,000 to every county in northeastern and central Pennsylvania. Luzerne County will receive the largest amount: $1.1 million.

Volunteers at the Lake Silkworth Fire Department are dispatched at all hours of the day all over Luzerne County's Back Mountain.

The department has about a dozen volunteers, and those volunteer firefighters usually have to do year-round fundraising. But now, they're getting some help from the state.

"Trying to make money is a blessing. If we get money for free, it's a blessing. Any money helps," said Chief Jerry Walker, Lake Silkworth Volunteer Fire Department.

This money is coming at a time when fewer people are volunteering, and the cost of running a department is going up.

"There's a lot of training involved, and each class costs money. It costs money per class, and it's time and money. Not a lot of people have time to do that," Walker added.

The state is giving Lehman Township volunteer fire departments $20,000 to be split between Idetown and Lake Silkworth. Both departments often work together when battling big blazes. The money will go towards gear and training.

"It costs an average of probably $3,000 a person to suit them up and go into a building. The apparatus these days, you know, $250,000, so it adds up quick," said Chief Joe Blaine, Idetown Volunteer Fire Department

In total, volunteer fire departments in northeastern and central Pennsylvania are getting $7.9 million from the state.

"We might get some new members. We might get some new volunteers," said Walker.

The auditor general says this money is coming from a tax on fire insurance premiums.

4 comments

  • jimbrony

    Wood Dog is correct. This annual distribution of funds from the state is nothing new, it’s been in the works for ages. The state sends a team of auditors in every few years to balance the books on expenditures- and they are VERY thorough and miss nothing. And – it’s all a matter of public record. You can look the audit results up on-line. There’s no denying there are a few bad apples-and they eventually get caught-they always do. Your taxes will go up several mils to have a paid fire department.

    • wooddog846

      A few and I mean few give the volunteer fire services a bad name. Dont let the bad news disrupt from this small amount of money given to the volunteers. There is worse corruption in other organizations than that. It’s what the news likes to report that only gets to the general public. If the news started running stories on how much more taxes will go up switching to a state wide fire protection system, and the billions it would cost people would start to open theirs eyes and help (with fundraisers and volunteering). When your house Is on fire (or vehicle accident) and you or your loved one is trapped, are you going to tell 911, “dont send me “xyz” station because they had a member steal money “?
      This money is highly audited to the penny and any corrupt persons not using it properly are held up in court to the highest extent.

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