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Each legislative session thousands of bills and amendments are introduced in the Pennsylvania Legislature. Only a fraction become law, and an even smaller portion receive wide media coverage.

These bills impact the lives of people living in Pennsylvania every day. Each week The Sentinel will highlight one bill that has not received widespread attention.

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First responder organizations throughout Pennsylvania are struggling with dwindling volunteer rates. When asked why, some Cumberland County officials have pointed to onerous training requirements that create a barrier for people who would otherwise be interested in joining their ranks.

House Bill 1522 is designed to lessen that burden for junior firefighters. It would eliminate the statewide requirement for firefighters between the ages of 16 and 18 to complete Department of Conservation and Natural Resources training that focuses on fighting wildfires, according to a co-sponsorship memo from sponsors Rep. Torren Ecker, R-South Middleton, and Rep. Frank Farry, R-Langhorne.

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The training is unnecessary in urban and suburban areas, Ecker said in a news release. Fire companies could still choose to make the wildfire training mandatory for their organizations.

Junior firefighters would still have to complete basic firefighter training as required by the state fire commissioner.

“As a former junior firefighter, I know the important roles these young men and women play in our volunteer fire services. They are the future of our fire departments,” Ecker said in the news release. “This bill would help attract junior firefighters to serve at a time when volunteer levels have sharply dropped.”

The number of volunteer firefighters in Pennsylvania has dropped from about 300,000 in the 1980s to about 38,000 today, according to the news release.

The bill passed the House Labor and Industry Committee on June 4.

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Daniel Walmer covers public safety for The Sentinel. You can reach him by email at dwalmer@cumberlink.com or by phone at 717-218-0021.

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