Thursday, June 4, 2020
65.4 F
Thursday, June 4, 2020
65.4 F

Who Will Save Us? Part 2: Free Isn’t Without A Hefty Price

Who Will Save Us? A three-part investigative report.

Video Introduction: Sounding The Alarm

Part 1: The Volunteer Firefighter Drain
One volunteer’s weekend illustrates the intense pressure, immense time and constant personal sacrifice required to serve.

Part 2: Free Isn’t Without A Hefty Price
Volunteers grapple with funding and consolidation while sitting on tens of millions of dollars in duplicated equipment.

Part 3: We Pay Police & EMS – Why Not Firefighters?
A look at what can be done to substantively address the problems facing local fire departments.

The borough of Monaca covers a little more than two square miles.

It has about 2,600 households, according to current census estimates.

It’s fair to say it’s a small town.

But Monaca has three independently operating volunteer fire departments, each with its own fire engine, which typically cost up to a half-million dollars each. All three could show up to any fire in Monaca, and they do, said Glenn Rambo, chief of Monaca VFD #1.

How many does the borough need?

“One engine, one department,” Rambo said. “Everybody shows up for everything. We’re running as one department. We should just be one department.”

As Beaver County’s 44 volunteer fire departments struggle with a severe scarcity of those willing to serve, they house a fortune in duplicated vehicles and apparatus: 73 engines alone in its 54 municipalities.

Pennsylvania doesn’t require volunteers to be trained to use the equipment or otherwise, though some VFDs have their own rules. The state only requires its more than 2,500 municipalities to name a designated department. They’re only required to pay for volunteers’ workers’ compensation. Any other funding is optional.

Put all those issues together and the result is that residents can’t be certain of an adequate response to their calls, nor can they know whether the respondents will be trained to help them. In fact, the state doesn’t require volunteers even have criminal background checks, though again some VFDs have their own rules.

A 2018 state Senate commission study touched on all those issues and many more, including department consolidations.

“We can’t keep doing things the way we used to,” said Eric Brewer, the county’s director of emergency management. “The solution is for municipalities to start paying what fire protection costs and regionalize. But taxpayers are going to have to pay for it.

“I think we have to move forward. We don’t need one (station) at every crossroads – especially if they’re not manned.” Mergers need to be considered and legislation regarding training also needs to be implemented, he said.

Log in or become a subscriber to continue reading the rest of this article. Your support makes our local reporting in Beaver County possible.
Subscribe Now! Log In
Lori Boone
Lori Boone
Lori DeLauter Boone has more than 20 years of experience in investigative and community journalism. She’s won more than a dozen regional, state and national journalism awards.

Reader Comments:

Latest News

Ambridge Business Called In Private Militia Group To “Stand Guard” During Protest

An Ambridge business owner called in a private militia group to protect his establishment on Sunday and warned that...

Preliminary Hearing For Sheldon Jeter Jr. Postponed Over Defense Attorney’s Objection

A scheduled hearing today for a man accused of the May 15 killing of Tyric Pugh in Aliquippa has been continued. Sheldon Devant Jeter, Jr.,...

Photos: Beaver Borough Hit Hard By Severe Thunderstorms

Beaver Borough was hit hard by waves of severe thunderstorms that swept through Beaver County Friday afternoon. Beaver County Emergency Services Director Eric Brewer told...

Small Demonstration In Center Township Called For Racial Unity

Some gave a middle finger, others gave a thumbs up, as demonstrators in Center Township sought public support today for racial unity. Danyelle Pagani, 31,...

District Attorney Touts Work Done In Beaver County To Improve Relations Between Police And Minority Communities

District Attorney David Lozier is touting work done in Beaver County over the past several years to improve relations between local law enforcement and...
error: Alert: Content is protected!