State commission to study fire, EMS issues

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — A statewide commission is being formed to study issues facing the Commonwealth’s fire and emergency medical services (EMS).

Pennsylvania Senate Resolution 6 (2017) creates the new group, comprised mostly of legislators, cabinet members and other directors of related organizations. Members will work to compile a list of recommendations for improving the often complicated systems under which both volunteer fire companies and private EMS agencies operate under. A similar commission formed in 2004 provided 23 recommendations.

“Move forward now, 13, 14 years, and it was determined a lot of those initiatives still didn’t get completed, and we’d like to see then completed,” said Tim Solobay, Pennsylvania Fire Commissioner. “Some of the big issues before us are recruitment and retention of the people in our communities who volunteer to serve with their fire departments and ambulances.”

According to Solobay, the current number of volunteer firefighters statewide is roughly 50,000, down from 300,000 in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s.

Kraig Nace, Chief of Operations for Duncannon EMS, is among eight local level fire or EMS responders appointed to the Commission.

“I’m honored. I pursued it as soon as I learned of the resolution,” said Nace. “I’m a guy that complains a lot. I have a lot of criticisms of the system. So, I like to be able to offer some support and some insight when I can.”

Nace believes increased regionalization and consolidation of emergency services across township lines is the future, citing too many local departments providing the same service, but with few volunteers.

Solobay says the Commission had been placed on the backburner amidst ongoing state budget delays, but expect members to have their first meeting by the end of the year. He anticipates recommendations being submitted to legislators for consideration during the 2018 legislative session.

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