Volunteer fire departments have a hard job to do.
They don't do it for the pay; they do it because they care about their communities. Volunteer firefighters carry on one of the finest traditions of this country; traditions first started by Benjamin Franklin, who formed one of the first fire companies in 1736.
Over 80 percent of all fire departments in West Virginia are volunteer-based. Nationally there are approximately 800,000 volunteer firefighters. These men and women, despite no pay, take the same risks as their brethren in the state's paid fire departments.
However, in recent years it has become more difficult to recruit new firefighters and it has been equally frustrating to keep the firefighters these departments already have. Volunteers have to juggle their day (or night) jobs, as well as their obligations to their families.
In order to recruit new firefighters and to reward those who continue to serve, the West Virginia State Senate has introduced a bill that will reward these brave individuals. The West Virginia Volunteer Firefighter Length of Service Act would create a retirement pension of $400 a month to volunteer firefighters for length of service. To be eligible, recipients would have to be at least 60 years old and have at least 20 years of active service credit to receive the pension.
Some paid city fire departments have complained that city residents would be taxed to pay for the volunteer departments. However, VFD's often provide back-up support during major fires, disasters, and flooding. Helping volunteer fire departments ultimately helps every West Virginian. It keeps fire departments from folding, which would send homeowners insurance skyrocketing.
Should the bill pass the State Senate and be sent on to Gov. Joe Manchin for his signature, West Virginia would be showing concrete proof of the state's appreciation for the sacrifice, both of their personal time and their very lives, our volunteer firefighters.
In the meantime, be sure to support your local volunteer fire department by going to their fund raisers.