Extensive Demand for Volunteers & Dwindling Citizens to Answer the Call
In the 1970’s, Pennsylvania had 300,000 volunteer firefighters. Today, that number stands at fewer than 30,000. The dedicated and hardworking volunteers with the Paxtonia, Colonial Park, and Linglestown fire companies have provided fire protection and emergency response in Lower Paxton Township for nearly 85 years. Each year the number of emergencies they respond to increases, as does the educational requirements set forth by the Commonwealth and the National Fire Protection Administration (NFPA).
The substantial decline in the number of citizens willing to volunteer to provide these services throughout the Commonwealth has been experienced in Lower Paxton as well. More than ever, rising operational, capital, and administrative costs caused by increased training requirements and requests for services require municipalities to supplement the volunteer model. This change must occur to ensure the Township is prepared to secure the health and safety of our community.
Lower Paxton is the 15th largest municipality in Pennsylvania and is one of few municipalities of its size to rely solely on volunteers for its fire protection. For instance, the City of Harrisburg and Manheim Township, Lancaster County, both with a smaller population than Lower Paxton, employ paid career firefighters. Manheim Township shares similar demographics to Lower Paxton yet they employ 29 fulltime personnel which includes a fire chief, deputy fire chief, fire marshal, fleet mechanic, administrative assistant, 3 captains, 21 firefighter/emergency medical technicians (EMT’s) 48 part-time firefighter/EMTs and 30 volunteers. Our Township is nowhere near that level of need; however, there is still a growing need to supplement our volunteers with paid firefighters in the years ahead.
Preserving Fire Protection & Emergency Response
To maintain safety at the lowest possible cost possible to taxpayers, the Township is embarking on a comprehensive reassessment of the current volunteer fire service and looking to eventually add a career deputy fire chief and likely paid part-time firefighters to supplement our volunteers. This reassessment would also encompass ensuring that Emergency Medical Services (EMS), for both basic and advanced life support (BLS and ALS), remain strong throughout our Township, which has seen increasing demand for these life-essential amenities.
To support the reassessment, the Township has implemented a 0.175 mill increase (an average of $34 annually based on a home valued at $200,000) to the current Fire Protection Tax of 0.4615 mills. This will help pay for the rising costs of new fire apparatus, an independent study of fire and emergency medical services, the hiring of a deputy fire chief to oversee implementation of the study’s recommendations and development of a long-range plan for Lower Paxton’s emergency services.