Wednesday, January 16, 2002

Senate bill would let merged volunteer fire companies keep training money

The Associated Press

        FRANKFORT — Volunteer fire departments, many of them hard-pressed to keep a full staff, would be given a financial incentive to merge under a bill approved by a Senate committee Tuesday.

        “We're having a terrible time maintaining our departments,” Sylvan Smith, a spokesman for the Kentucky Firefighters Association, told the State Government Committee.

        Under Kentucky law, volunteer departments can qualify for state funding — $8,250 a year — if they have at least 12 firefighters, a chief, a truck and at least half the firefighters are pursuing certification.

        But if two or more departments merge, they get but one department's share of money.

        Under the bill by Sen. Katie Stine, R-Fort Thomas, merging departments would lose no funding for three years.

        A new department would get $16,500 per year if formed from two departments and $24,750 if formed from three. Shares would decrease after that but never be less than $12,250. The money is from a surcharge on insurance policies.

        Mr. Smith, of Erlanger, said Kentucky has 22,000 volunteer firefighters in nearly 800 departments. Attracting new firefighters is increasingly difficult because the work is more dangerous, and the training is more rigorous and time-consuming. “It takes away from the people's lives,” he said.

        “The standards are so much higher now,” Mr. Smith said.

        “And the type of fires you have now are so much different. ... You used to just stand outside and squirt water. Now you have to go in.”


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