Educational assistance for Pennsylvania's volunteer firefighters seen as one way to halt erosion of ranks

A group of state lawmakers meeting with first responders in Indiana, Pa., is seeking to have a conversation on how the state can bolster its ranks of volunteer firefighters and emergency medical technicians and how helping with higher education costs can accomplish that.

According to the Pennsylvania Fire and Emergency Services Institute, the state’s community fire districts are down to about 50,000 volunteers, compared to 300,000 in the 1970s.

The state House Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee heard testimony late last week on two bills. One proposal by state Rep. Chris Sainato, D-New Castle, the committee’s minority chair, would create a student loan forgiveness program.

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