As the need for volunteer firefighters increases, southern Indiana officials hope incentives will attract and retrain them
Many volunteer firefighters don't receive any type of pay. The Paoli fire chief said others can earn about $30 per run.
PAOLI, Ind. (WDRB) -- Officials in southern Indiana say there is a near dire need for volunteer firefighters. Legislation is being prepared to attract and retain more volunteer firefighters so when you have an emergency someone will show up.
One of those emergencies happened recently, when Paoli Town Council President Michael Harkness said a 3.5-acre property was burning. No one was hurt in the fire, but Harkness said it ignited an idea.
“I was watching these guys, and I'm like 'They don't get paid enough,'" he said. "And they're volunteers."
He wants volunteer firefighters to receive incentives. He's working on legislation that would offer some type of state pension plan and tax break.
“It's a recruiting incentive, and it's also an incentive for the guys to stay,” Harkness said.
Paoli Fire and Rescue has 12 volunteers, which is about normal. But surrounding departments are in a lot worse shape. Paoli Fire Chief Mark Jones said the amount of volunteers has significantly dropped off.
“Mainly, it's because you've got to make a living,” Jones said. “But it's a new time. There's a lot that keeps people busy.”
Jones said the sky is not falling at this point, but it could be if steps aren’t taken now to correct the problem.
“My fear is ... every time you call 911, this truck is gonna pull up," Harkness said. "And what if the time comes it doesn't pull up, because there's nobody to man the truck? So we need to take care of these guys, because they're going to be there to take care of us."
Most of the fire departments in the area are filled with volunteers.
Legislation offering incentives in the past for volunteer firefighters has failed, but Harkness and Jones said it's not going to stop them from supporting the men and women who protect everyone else.
“If we still want fire service in small towns 20, 30 years down the road, we have to start finding a way to incentivize those people to stay in it,” Jones said.
The hope is to have the legislation passed next year.
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