Supporting Our Everyday Heroes
A column by State Senator Pat Browne
16th Senatorial District
Throughout our history, few Pennsylvanians have displayed
more virtue and fidelity than our men and women in uniform.
Our Commonwealth is enriched by the volunteer spirit that is
part of our heritage.
In times of peace and war, Pennsylvanians have proudly
answered the call of duty. That spirit that is integral to
our armed forces is also a part of our everyday lives as
evidenced by the thousands of men and women serving as
In Pennsylvania, where the idea of the volunteer company
was born, we are fortunate to have the services of about
2,500 departments with more than 73,000 volunteer
firefighters. Whether they are fighting fires or responding
to traffic accidents, these men and women are there when we
need them. They are truly everyday heroes.
Unfortunately, many forces across the Commonwealth are
losing strength as their memberships decline. This
legislative package now on the table will provide incentives
that will help those fire departments and ambulance services
attract new members and keep existing members in uniform.
In recognition of that service and fidelity, the General
Assembly is working on several bills to help our volunteer
first responders. Several of these bills are already moving
through the legislative process and one – increasing the
death benefit paid to those who give their lives in the line
of duty – was signed into law.
Recently, the Senate approved House Bill 599, legislation
that would provide $25 million for the Volunteer Fire
Company and the Volunteer Ambulance Service Grant Act for
the current fiscal year. These grants would be used to
improve and enhance the capabilities of volunteer fire
companies and ambulance services across the Commonwealth.
The grant program received strong support from both the
Senate and House last year, but the funding was not included
as part of the budget for Fiscal Year 2005-06 that was
enacted last July.
I am very pleased this important grant program is part of
the proposed 2006-07 budget. More importantly we are
establishing the funding for this year through HB 599 so the
Commonwealth can also offer these grants to our emergency
responders this year.
Grants to volunteer fire and rescue companies would range
from a minimum of $2,500 to a maximum of $15,000 and could
be used for construction or renovation of the fire company's
primary structure; purchase or repair of firefighting,
ambulance or rescue equipment; training; or debt reduction
associated with the above.
Grants to volunteer ambulance services would range from
$2,500 to $10,000 and could be used for construction or
renovation of the ambulance company's primary structure;
purchase or repair of ambulance equipment; office equipment
and support services, training; or debt reduction associated
with the above.
This grant program is an important way to show our
volunteers that the people of Pennsylvania appreciate their
efforts and their service. When it comes right down to it –
a fire station is just a building. Shiny new fire trucks and
hoses, shovels and turnout coats are all great, but what
good are they on their own when the alarm goes out? Will
that fine equipment rescue a family from their blazing home?
No. That equipment is useless without men and women there
to use it.
It takes a special kind of person to race into a blazing
building or to work to exhaustion and beyond to snuff a
brush fire before it can reach a neighbor's farm. Our
volunteer firefighters are our everyday heroes and they
deserve our support.
Contact: Matt Moyer (610) 821-8468