Says critical decline in volunteer firefighters across New York continues to accelerate; legislation is a crucial step toward helping departments recruit & retain volunteers
By the Firemen's Association of the State of New York
The Firemen's Association of the State of New York (FASNY) is pleased Gov. Andrew Cuomo has signed critical legislation addressing the growing decline in volunteer firefighters across the state. The bill (S.7589-B / A.9779-A) was sponsored by Sen. James Gaughran and Assembly member Fred Thiele.
The new law creates a New York State Recruitment and Retention Task Force that will study challenges to recruiting and retaining volunteer firefighters. It’s mission is to develop recommendations and policy changes to assist fire departments across the state in boosting their ranks.
“There has been an alarming decrease in the number of volunteer firefighters in New York state in recent years,” FASNY President John P. Farrell said. “The ongoing pandemic, and this summer’s hurricane, have highlighted the crucial role that volunteer first responders play on the front lines of local and state emergencies. We applaud Gov. Cuomo for signing this important public safety legislation that will enable us to better serve the citizens of our state. We also wish to express our thanks to Sen. Gaughran and Assembly member Thiele for their strong leadership and hard work in the passage of this vital bill.”
The role of the volunteer fire service has grown in both frequency and complexity in recent years. In addition to protecting lives and property, volunteer firefighters play a central role in emergency response during natural and manmade disasters. This legislation convenes key decision makers and stakeholders to identify long-term solutions that will fortify the ranks of volunteer firefighters through achievable recruitment policies and programs.
"Volunteer firefighters are the lifeblood of our community. They bravely serve with distinction and without remuneration,” Gaughran said. “These essential workers have been on the frontlines of combatting the COVID-19 pandemic, a crisis that has only further exacerbated our volunteer fire force's depleting ranks. This legislation will provide critical assistance in the recruitment and retention of volunteer firefighters and I thank Gov. Cuomo, Assemblyman Thiele and FASNY for their partnership on this initiative."
"As chair of the Assembly Local Governments Committee, and a representative whose district is solely served by these dedicated volunteers, I am pleased that the governor signed this important measure into law,” Thiele said. “I worked closely with FASNY and Sen. Gaughran in advancing the Volunteer Firefighter Recruitment and Retention Task Force bill that will bring together key decisionmakers from relevant state agencies, firefighter associations and policymakers. Now, more than ever, it is crucial to ensure that the next generation of volunteer firefighters are in place and ready to serve on the frontlines during an emergency. "
The task force will be composed of key stakeholders from the fire service, the executive branch, the Legislature and state agencies. It will meet throughout 2021 and produce a report with a series of recommendations on policy changes, new programs and incentives to increase both volunteer firefighter recruitment and retention.
In addition to the public safety benefits it provides, the volunteer fire service saves taxpayers in New York over $5 billion annually. If the state’s volunteer fire service needed to be replaced by an all-career force, the state and its residents would face both a massive cost increase and a significant public safety burden. The goal of this legislation is to ensure the state plays a meaningful and cooperative role in recruiting the next generation of volunteer fire service personnel.
A link to the legislation can be found at: https://www.nysenate.gov/legislation/bills/2019/s7589/amendment/b
Founded in 1872, the Firemen’s Association of the State of New York represents the interests of the approximately 90,000 volunteer firefighters and emergency medical personnel in New York. For more information, visit www.fasny.com.