Snyder, Policy Committee examine decline in volunteer firefighters

RICHEYVILLE, Oct. 18 – The sharp decline in the number of volunteer firefighters was discussed at a public hearing held today by the House Democratic Policy Committee and hosted by state Rep. Pam Snyder.

Snyder, D-Greene/Fayette/Washington, brought the committee and its chairman, state Rep. Mike Sturla, D-Lancaster, to the Richeyville Volunteer Fire Company Hall. They heard testimony from local fire department officials on how their ranks are dwindling and what might be done to reverse that trend.

“For decades, volunteer firefighters have formed the strong backbone of our area’s emergency response system,” Snyder said. “We can’t afford to have that spine weakened to the point where the ability to fight fires and respond to accidents becomes spotty. Today, we gathered information on the scope of the problem, which will be useful as we help craft the state’s response in terms of law and policy.”

Sturla, who commended Snyder for keeping this issue on the radar, said, “Coming from a rural district, Representative Snyder is acutely aware of the importance of volunteer firefighters, whose work not only provides a vital service but also alleviates the burden on local taxpayers.”

In addition to Bruce Trego, the acting Pennsylvania state fire commissioner, testifiers included: Jeff Marshall, chief, Waynesburg-Franklin Township Volunteer Fire Co.; Scott Dolan, chief, Hiller Volunteer Fire Co.; Mark Giovanelli, first assistant chief, East Bethlehem Volunteer Fire Co.; and Craig Baily, president, Carmichaels-Cumberland Township Volunteer Fire Co.