Barrar and Committee Explore the Possibility of Fire Companies Billing for Services to Remain Viable
12/11/2015
HARRISBURG – Rep. Steve Barrar (R-Chester/Delaware), majority chairman of the House Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee, hosted a public hearing on House Bill 1272, which would allow fire companies to bill for real and reasonable costs associated with their emergency responses.

“As our fire companies face the increasingly challenging issue of remaining financially viable, this bill would provide reimbursement for equipment that is used when responding to an emergency. It would not allow staff time to be paid, nor would it be expected to be a sustainable revenue stream,” Barrar explained.

The bill is intended to ease the burden of fundraising that fire companies continually face. When volunteers are forced to hold endless pancake breakfasts, spaghetti dinners and boot drives, they have less time for the many other activities that demand their attention. This struggle often results in difficulty recruiting and retaining volunteer firefighters.

During the hearing, state fire commissioner Tim Solobay expressed his support of the bill and suggested that career fire departments be included in the bill in addition to volunteer fire departments.

“I travel across the state to talk with fire department chiefs and membership about the problems they are having with recruitment and retention. Those issues usually push back to one thing, and that’s the finances of the fire department,” Solobay said. “People are willing to join fire departments and be emergency service providers because they want to do that task – not to become professional fundraisers. This bill would allow them to recoup their reasonable costs.”

Don Konkle, executive director of the Pennsylvania Fire and Emergency Service Institute, echoed the need for the bill and advocated for the ability of local municipalities to decide the fee schedule that will be followed. Currently, the bill incorporates a uniform fee schedule for all fire companies within the Commonwealth.

Another testifier, Tim Shatto, chief of the West Hanover Fire Department in Dauphin County, explained to the committee the need for uniformity. He stated that one insurance company will pay a claim while another insurer will make a payment only if a written agreement between the individual submitting a claim and the affected fire company existed prior to an incident.

“I thank Rep. Cris Dush, the maker of the bill, and everyone who participated in the hearing. It is our hope that we can enable fire companies to cover their costs so we can all continue to enjoy the valuable services they provide,” Barrar concluded. “The goal is not for fire companies to make money, but simply to remain viable.”

To view footage of the House Veterans’ Affairs and Emergency Preparedness public hearing, click here.

Representative Stephen E. Barrar
160th District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: Alison Evans
717.260.6206
aevans@pahousegop.com
SteveBarrar.com / Facebook.com/RepBarrar
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