(WV State Capitol, Charleston WV) – April 4, 2011. Governor Earl Ray Tomblin made it official today by signing HB 3271 into law. This bill, along with the added $2.5 Million dollars to the budget will grant volunteer fire departments in West Virginia a total of $5 Million dollars toward paying increases in Worker’s Compensation Insurance Premiums.
Members of many volunteer fire departments and the State Firemen’s Association along side members of the House of Delegates and State Senate were on hand to witness the signing of HB3271 by Governor Tomblin. Without the help and support of local, county and state officials, working hand-in-hand with representatives of the West Virginia State Firemen’s Association, the passage of this bill would not have been possible. Through the leadership of the Governor’s Office and both houses of the Legislature, a last minute effort culminated into patching the gaping holes some volunteer fire departments would feel come July 1 2011 when Worker’s Compensation coverage is expected to quadruple.
Within the coming months and toward the next legislative session, representatives of the volunteer fire service expect another heated session in the legislature to transition this “patch” to a full fledged permanent fix for local fire companies. It’s a never ending battle for fire departments, on and off the fire-ground. Whether it’s battling the blazes during a house fire or battling law makers in the legislature, the volunteer fire service is inundated with obstacles.
As this current crisis is relieved, leaders in the volunteer fire service community may now focus their attention toward recruitment and retention efforts. Without acquiring new-blood in the service and by losing more and more veteran fire fighters, our numbers are steadily dwindling. Seen as a nationwide epidemic among the volunteer fire service, West Virginia is facing the same problems with retaining veterans and recruiting new members to the service.