A joint emergency services workgroup is being formed to focus on initiatives to bolster volunteer fire services, including potential regionalization efforts.
The workgroup grew out of discussions at a joint municipal meeting a few weeks ago and will include two representatives from each participating municipality as well as representatives from fire and EMS companies, Carlisle Borough Councilman Sean Shultz said.
Participating municipalities are South Middleton, North Middleton and Dickinson townships as well as Mount Holly Springs. Emergency services companies participating are Carlisle Fire & Rescue Services, Citizen’s Company, Union Fire Company, Cumberland Goodwill EMS and Yellow Breeches EMS.
“Everybody who was in the room recognizes the challenges that are facing all of these municipalities because you’re relying on volunteer fire companies,” said Councilwoman Deb Fulham-Winston, who will represent Carlisle in the workgroup along with Shultz.
The creation of the workgroup comes after a Senate report released last December that included a number of recommendations for boosting the state’s volunteer fire companies.
Recommendations in the report include increasing state-directed recruitment and retention efforts and increasing state support for tax and tuition breaks for volunteer firefighters. The recommendations also suggest that the state streamline and incentivize regionalization projects, helping to merge local fire services into larger units that are easier to manage and finance.
Following the report’s release, members of Union Fire Company, Carlisle Fire & Rescue Services and Cumberland Goodwill EMS discussed volunteer recruitment and regionalization with the borough council, saying that the borough has an opportunity to be ahead of the curve and set an example for other areas in setting up a regional system to assist struggling fire companies and recognizing that a regional mindset represents the future for these companies.
The struggle fire companies face isn’t news to municipal leaders or to the volunteers, Fulham-Winston said. Volunteer recruitment is something they’ve been working on for a long time.
“These are folks who have been really paying attention to this and putting everything in place they can think of to recruit more folks, but we need to be working together for it to really make sense,” she said.