Volunteer Firefighters

Bas Slabbers for Keystone Crossroads

Mike Kitsock never thought he’d still be fighting fires as a sexagenarian.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

Firefighting is a dangerous job — it’s also an enormously expensive one. 

Individual gear, breathing apparatuses and even the tires for a fire truck can cost thousands of dollars. Something as big as a new fire engine could easily cost half-a-million dollars. 

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

In Pennsylvania, unless you live in a big city like Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Harrisburg or Erie, your fire department is almost certainly made up of volunteers.

Gene J. Puskar / AP Photo

In the 1970s, Pennsylvania had 300,000 volunteer firefighters, according to the State Fire Commissioner. That number has dropped to about 50,000, leaving some volunteer stations stretched thin and communities underserved.

Area representatives are supporting a bill that would waive background check fees for paid and volunteer firefighters and emergency response personnel.  

Sounding The Alarm For Volunteer Firefighters

May 6, 2015
Kate Lao Shaffner / WPSU

The idea of volunteer fire departments originated in Pennsylvania and it's certainly a hallmark of the state: around 90 percent of Pa.'s fire departments are volunteer. But these departments are facing big challenges. Volunteer numbers are down and for many municipalities, funding is an ongoing headache.