Depasquale: Changes necessary for volunteer firefighters to better serve communities


(WTAJ) — Volunteer fire departments across the region are struggling not only with a shortage of volunteers but to also make ends meet.

Now, the Pennsylvania Auditor General said the state can do more to help volunteer fire companies get the most use out of the funding they receive.

Many volunteer fire companies in our area receive state aid through a volunteer fire relief association each year, and one problem with the current process is there’s confusion around how they can properly use the money.

59 relief associations received at least $1 million or higher last year, but Auditor General Eugene Depasquale said the restrictions on what that money can be used for made it difficult for local volunteer fire companies to pay the bills.

“Firefighters spend a lot of time raising funds to pay for equipment and other expenses that state aid does not cover,” he said.

Depasquale added the state law that created relief associations has only be updated twice since being signed in 1968, a problem with advancing technology that allows these departments to better respond in emergency situations.

“Simply stated, the law has not kept pace with changing times and in my view, puts too many restriction on how relief associations can spend the state aid they receive,” he said.

Depasquale also said the way the guidelines are written can be confusing to departments looking to use that money, so even if a relief association has money in the bank, the fire department it supports can be struggling to make ends meet.

“The job fire fighters have to do is critical to saving lives and protecting further damage to the community.”

Eugene Depasquale

Depasquale is also encouraging folks to be generous when supporting your local fire department, as well as consider becoming a volunteer.

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