WV Press Release Sharing
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia’s volunteer fire departments — the last line of protection for thousands of West Virginia families — are supporting legislation that will allow them to strengthen service to their communities and overcome what has become a dire situation.
If approved by the Legislature and signed by the governor, Senate Bill 513 would allow volunteer and part-volunteer fire departments to use state grants to enhance their recruiting efforts. Funding for the grant program would come from increasing the surcharge on taxable fire insurance premiums from .55% to 1%.
“Without relief, fire departments will close,” said G.T. Parsons, president of the West Virginia Firemen’s Association. “Sadly, that would leave families and businesses without adequate emergency services, and we don’t want that to happen” he said.
While volunteer departments serve as pillars of many local communities, several have closed their doors the past few years, Parsons said. Too many must rely on hot dog sales and raffles to raise money and do not have adequate funding to conduct successful campaigns for new members, he added.
“The problems we face today will doom other departments unless we find more support for our members,” Parsons said. “We are taking steps now that will allow VFDs to continue to protect West Virginia families, businesses, and communities.”
Parsons said West Virginia households and businesses depend on 407 volunteer or partially volunteer fire departments throughout the state. The failure of local departments would create greater risks for West Virginians, he said.
The availability of fire and emergency services also has financial implications for families and businesses, he cautioned.
“The strength and capabilities of local fire departments affect residents’ and businesses’ property insurance rates, which depend, in part, on the proximity and quality of local emergency services,” Parsons said.
“This is not a new problem, but it is a problem that has reached a critical stage,” Parsons said. “By working with the Legislature, we can address this situation and allow our communities to continue to rely on local emergency services.”
“Fire department volunteers are our friends and neighbors, always willing to interrupt their time at work and home to answer emergency calls,” Parsons said. “We know the people of West Virginia appreciate our fire departments and volunteers.
“We are grateful that members of the Legislature are interested in reversing this troubling trend,” he said. “They understand the value of locally based fire and emergency services. We must stop this decline now, or we’ll pay the price both financially and through personal loss.”