Watch CBS News

Pennsylvania leaders, fire service professions discuss firefighter shortage and how to fix it

Forum held to discuss firefighter shortage and how to fix it
Forum held to discuss firefighter shortage and how to fix it 02:26

SHARPSBURG, Pa. (KDKA) — When it comes to keeping everyone safe, firefighters play a vital role.

But they are in short supply across the state. In some places, it is creating life-or-death situations 

On Wednesday, the Turtle Creek Valley Council of Governments held a forum to bring elected officials and fire service professionals together to discuss the needs and issues impacting quality fire service throughout the state.

"When you bring these people with all this talent together, those solutions rise to the top," said Amanda Settlemaier, executive director of the Turtle Creek Valley Council of Governments.

There are backlogs to 911 calls with professional and volunteer firefighters in Allegheny County due to a lack of communication and lack of volunteers. Fewer volunteers mean slower response times. 

Pennsylvania State Fire Commissioner Tom Cook shared what he wants to be done.

"We've seen a significant decline in the number of firefighters in the Commonwealth over the last 30 years," he said. "We like to label it as a crisis."

"How do we interest them at a younger age, how do we keep them involved with retention programs," Cook added. 

West Wilmerding Assistant Fire Chief Bud Pusey said volunteers need incentives, adding that some volunteers do not want to go the college route. 

"Just the training requirements alone. You got to do 180 hours just to be a basic firefighter," he said. "That's not the rescue training or anything. You have to give some kind of incentive to be a firefighter. They're giving free college, but not everyone goes to college. Some people want to go to the workforce."

The fire commissioner suggested a blended training program to get certification — part online and in person — to relieve the time pressure many volunteers face. Mergers are also on the table. 

"With the manpower and the financial strains, merging is a no-brainer," Pusey said.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.