LANCASTER, Pa. (Erie News Now) — Wednesday, Governor Josh Shapiro discussed his recent budget proposals for fire and emergency medical services at Lancaster Fire Department Station 3.
“Investing in safer communities. It shouldn’t be a partisan issue. This shouldn’t be something that divides us,” said Gov. Shapiro.
“These men and women that serve our public risk, their health and welfare and in some cases their lives providing service to the communities within the Commonwealth. It is our obligation and duty to support them,” said Tom Cook, the Acting Pennsylvania Fire Commissioner.
Whether it’s a traffic accident, house fire, or weather-related emergency, first responders are always there to answer the call. But having the people and resources necessary to respond is a growing concern, with many fire and EMS companies feeling the burn.
Pennsylvania had 22,000 fewer volunteer firefighters in 2018 than in the early 2000s and 6,000 fewer EMTs compared to 2012.
“We have to change those trends,” said Shapiro.
Staffing levels at 911 dispatch centers are following similar trends.
“Meaning we have 20 percent fewer staff today in our 911 centers than we should have,” said Shapiro, who is proposing an additional $36 million for fire and EMS equipment, training and salaries, as well as another $50 million for 911 communications in his budget.
Some state lawmakers say the proposals don’t go far enough. State Rep. Brad. Roae (R-Crawford/Erie) shared the following statement with WENY News:
“Shapiro’s $36 million proposal to help fire and EMS would only average about $18,000 each for the 2,000 volunteer fire departments in PA. A fire engine costs over $500,000 and it costs $50,000 a year in salary and thousands more in benefits to hire one full time EMT so Shapiro’s proposal would not have much of an impact. He wants $36 million more for fire and EMS and $2 billion more for education.
I have introduced legislation to let counties use the $5 county vehicle registration fee for EMS, use the county hotel tax for EMS rather than tourism promotion and soon will be introducing my legislation to let municipalities use a phone fee, per capita tax or local services tax rather than solely relying on the property tax to help fund EMS.”
Fire officials today said a new fire engine costs over $740,000 and a new ladder truck costs over $1,000,000. Another $10,000 per firefighter is necessary for equipment and mandatory training.
Rep. Roae’s House Bill 68 is the legislation that would allow counties to use the optional $5 vehicle fee to help fund EMS.