By Dawn White – WHTM
DILLSBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – It’s a serious problem plaguing the entire state. The number of volunteer firefighters in Pennsylvania has decreased 500 percent over the past four decades. This has led some concerns for your safety.
Two volunteer fire departments in northern York County are merging. They’re bringing together their firefighters and equipment to make sure they have enough resources to keep the community safe.
“It’s getting worse. It’s not getting better,” said Frank Wirth, steering committee chairman for Northern York County Emergency Services.
It’s a huge problem for fire companies across Pennsylvania.
“The problem of finding firefighters is huge in South Central Pennsylvania, in the commonwealth, and throughout the nation,” Wirth said.
“This is not just a single station,” Franklintown & Community Fire Company Chief Michael Whitzel said.
Whitzel has seen the challenges of being understaffed.
“People are wearing two hats to make the organization run and thrive every day,” Whitzel said. “Fewer people means more work for others.”
The Dillsburg and Franklintown fire departments are coming together and becoming the Northern York County Emergency Services.
“We’re going to have two separate locations. Pretty much nothing is going to change in the first couple years. The goal is to be under one roof eventually,” said Scott McClintock, fire chief at Citizens Hose Company #1 in Dillsburg.
“In 1999, Franklintown and Community Fire Company ran approximately 100 calls,” Whitzel said. “We’re on pace to have about 400 this year.”
Pennsylvania had 300,000 volunteer firefighters in the 1970s. Now, the state has only around 50,000.
“People are busy doing a whole bunch of things in their lives, especially with their kids,” Wirth said. “Younger folks are more into sports, and they’re more into video games.”
Fire companies in Adams, Cumberland, and Dauphin Counties also recently merged.
“We need to come together in order to make sure that we’re meeting the needs of the community,” Wirth said.
The Dillsburg and Franklintown fire departments are scheduled to merge on January 1, 2018. Their career EMS companies are also in talks of coming together.