WV State Firemen’s Association
West Virginia volunteer firefighters from all across the State showed up in numbers and got some good news at Wednesday’s State of the State Address at the State Capitol. Representatives of Governor Earl Ray Tomblin told leaders of the West Virginia State Fireman’s Association (WV SFA) that the Governor has allocated $2,500,000 to a “Volunteer Firefighter’s Worker’s Compensation Relief Fund”. This money would be pooled for all of the volunteer fire departments in the State for use in paying Worker’s Compensation premiums which are expected to skyrocket. WV SFA leaders were grateful for the Governor’s actions but are hopeful that the legislature will also step in and help meet the remainder of the projected liability that will be generated when the moratorium on premium increases expires on June 30, 2011. Projections have called for premium increases of up to 700% for some departments.
Also at the Capitol, on Wednesday morning the Worker’s Compensation Task Force met and sent its final reports to the Governor for his consideration. The task-force, appointed by then Governor Manchin, was in agreement with the State Association on many aspects of the Worker’s Comp issues including Compensable Injuries and Risk Assessment. There was also agreement that there is conflicting data on injuries and their root causes but it is believed that these smaller issues can continue to be worked through with the legislature to resolution via open dialogue.
WV SFA President Jim Oldaker stated, “We appreciate Governor Tomblin’s effort to start the process of resolving this crisis. He has a clear understanding of the potential impact the loss of Worker’s Compensation coverage for volunteer fire departments will have on emergency service delivery in the State.”
Volunteer firefighters are also going to be pressing the legislature on issues related to Broadform Liability and the retention and recruitment of volunteers in their ranks. John Holstein, Chief of the Danville Volunteer Fire Department in Boone County summed up the issue in stating, “We’re losing well trained volunteer firefighters on a weekly basis and we’re not getting the number of new recruits that we’ve seen in the past. This is an on-going issue that we cannot stress enough to our representatives.”
Volunteer firefighters are planning to be at the Capitol throughout the 2011 General Session and will have a “Meeting with the Legislature” on February 2, 2011. All firefighters from across the State are encouraged to attend to meet with the Delegates and Senators to discuss their specific needs and concerns.
The West Virginia State Fireman’s Association represents over 300 volunteer fire departments across the State and serves as the State’s liaison with the National Volunteer Fire Council. For more information, please feel free to contact WV SFA President Jim Oldaker at firstname.lastname@example.org.