Local Volunteer Fire Departments Report High Call Volume, But Low Community Support
The West Lake Fire Department posted their year-end call numbers to their Facebook page showing over 1,750 calls made at their department alone, but although the numbers keep increasing every year, the department is still struggling.
In 2016, West Lake Volunteer Fire Department clocked in at 1,753 calls.
"We're committing a lot of time to the calls and the community. Mostly what we have to give up is time away from our family, your girlfriend, your wives, your children," said Lieutenant Patrick Carne, of West Lake Fire Department.
Lieutenant Carne clocked in over 400 of those calls. His Chief, Richard Schau ran on over 500.
"It takes a special person to be a volunteer fireman and right now Pennsylvania is hurting for them," said Chief Richard Schau of West Lake Fire Department.
Volunteer departments across the state are struggling to get the necessary funds needed to respond to calls, but as the calls increase ever year, the support from the community decreases.
"Our fund drive at West Lake this year was at 18%. That's not survivable by any fire department," said Chief Schau.
Statistically Chief Schau said donation numbers have been dropping for the past twenty years, forcing them to reach out to the township.
"Unless things change, we've been working with Supervisor Groh from Millcreek Township and the Board of Supervisors, the tax payers are going to look at a substantial tax increase because donations are way down."
On January 24th, the Millcreek Board of Supervisors will be voting on an ordinance for a Fire and Emergency Services Commission, made up from representatives from the five volunteer fire departments, Millcreek Paramedic Service and three residents from Millcreek Township.
"To make recommendations to the board of supervisors for any sort of purchases, actions, anything involving the fire departments where they need our help," explained John Groh, Chairman of the Millcreek Township Supervisors.
West Lake alone needs a new roof costing around 60,000 dollars. Other departments in the state may need a fire engine costing $500,000. Turn out gear costs $2,500. The costs add up, but they say the community can help.
"Support your fire department, even if you're not in Millcreek, support your own municipal department where you live at," said Groh.
"Support us, whether it be talking to people in the community or giving us a financial donation," said Lieutenant Carne.
"Every fire department needs money and they all need help," said Chief Schau.
At the state level, Representative Ryan Bizzaro said they are currently working on bills to provide incentives and benefits to help better the lives of volunteer firefighters and first responders.
You can support the Millcreek Firefighters at the Supervisors meeting on January 24th at 7:00 p.m. at the Millcreek Township Municipal Building.