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Politics and Government

Central Pa. Volunteer Firefighters Get Help From The State, But Some Say They Could Use More

A firefighter's hat sits inside the Miles Township Fire Company. Chief Eric Miller says chasing grants to support the volunteer fire company is a big part of the job.
Min Xian
/
WPSU
A firefighter's hat sits inside the Miles Township Fire Company. Chief Eric Miller says chasing grants to support the volunteer fire company is a big part of the job.

Eric Miller, chief of the Miles Township Fire Company, has just submitted an application for a volunteer fire assistance grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources for 2019.

Miller said chasing grants is part of the reality of running a fire company.

“Everybody wants to go be a hero and save people’s houses, which obviously is what we’re here for. But if we don’t have money coming in, we can’t help the community,” said Miller, who has been with the fire company for 19 years and its chief for four years.

Eric Miller, chief of the Miles Township Fire Company, believes incentives like tax credits from the state could help recruit more volunteer fire fighters.
Credit Min Xian / WPSU
/
WPSU
Eric Miller, chief of the Miles Township Fire Company, believes incentives like tax credits from the state could help recruit more volunteer fire fighters.

Volunteer fire companies face challenges in declining membership and funding across the state. While state grants are available, some say the state could do more.

Last year, Miller’s company got about $11,000 from the same grant, which was used to purchase fire gear. Miller said it was a big help for his fire company, which had a budget of about $42,000 in 2018.

State Representative Scott Conklin (D-Centre) hopes other companies will take advantage of the grant. But he said he believes the state should provide more support, including health insurance for volunteer fire fighters.

“We have to come up with more ways to be able to help these folks out,” Conklin said. “Because they’ve exhausted every way they can to make it without our help – it’s time that we have to step forward and come up with even more than these grants.”

The state passed an act in 2016, which provides municipalities the option to give volunteer fire fighters and EMS agents either real estate tax credits or income tax credits. Miller said incentives like that could potentially help recruit more volunteers.

Volunteer fire companies serving a population of 10,000 or fewer can apply for this state grant. Applications are being accepted until May 2.

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