The Alpha Fire Company in State College is proposing a huge increase in its annual stipend for volunteer firefighters. The proposal underlines the difficulty in recruiting volunteer firefighters across the state.
The 96 volunteer firefighters at Alpha earn a stipend of about $560 a year when they work a minimum requirement.
Fire Director Steve Bair proposes an increase in that stipend. If approved, the volunteers would get about $1,000 next year and around $5,000 a few years from now. The funding will come from local taxpayers.
Ninety-seven percent of fire departments in Pennsylvania are volunteer-based. Bair said he hopes, with a higher stipend, people will choose volunteering over a part-time job.
“Volunteerism in general is in significant decline across the state," Bair said. "It’s a huge problem everywhere.”
The Pennsylvania Office of Fire Commissioners gives out grants to fire companies and emergency medical services each year, but the $15,000 Alpha got from this program accounts for just one percent of its annual budget.