Vir­ginia teenagers may res­cue vol­un­teer fire de­part­ments

Rappahannock News - - FRONT PAGE - By lo­gan Bogert Cap­i­tal News Ser­vice

RICH­MOND – A bill to al­low teenagers to join vol­un­teer fire and res­cue squads may save many op­er­a­tions around Vir­ginia that have seen an in­crease in ser­vice calls but a de­crease in vol­un­teers.

Vol­un­teers make up more than 65 per­cent of Vir­ginia’s fire­fight­ing ser­vices — but ac­cord­ing to the Vir­ginia Depart­ment of Fire Pro­grams, “re­ten­tion and re­cruit­ment of new mem­bers has never been

more chal­leng­ing.”

How­ever, the Gen­eral Assem­bly ap­proved — unan­i­mously in both the House and Se­nate — a bill that might res­cue some of these op­er­a­tions.

Cur­rently in Vir­ginia, 16and 17-year-olds can join a vol­un­teer fire depart­ment only with parental or guardian con­sent and proper cer­ti­fi­ca­tion. SB 887, if signed by Gov. Ralph Northam, would al­low these teens to join a vol­un­teer fire depart­ment and par­tic­i­pate in non-haz­ardous ac­tiv­i­ties such as train­ing ex­er­cises with­out con­sent or cer­ti­fi­ca­tion. Six­teen- and 17-year-olds still would need con­sent and cer­ti­fi­ca­tion to par­tic­i­pate in a fire depart­ment’s or res­cue squad’s po­ten­tially haz­ardous ac­tiv­i­ties.

“The commonweal­th rec­og­nizes the need to reach out to Vir­ginia’s youth and en­gage them in non-op­er­a­tional roles within emer­gency de­part­ments,” Mo­hamed Ab­bamin, pol­icy man­ager for the Vir­ginia Depart­ment of Fire Pro­grams, said by email. “Reach­ing out to peo­ple when they are young has long-range ef­fects, and en­cour­ag­ing youth to take part in the emer­gency ser­vices is ex­tremely ben­e­fi­cial to lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties and de­part­ments.”

Sen. Creigh Deeds, DBath, in­tro­duced the bill af­ter a meet­ing with the VDFP in the fall.

“It’s just like any­thing else: If you can get young peo­ple in­volved, there’s a bet­ter chance they’re go­ing to stick with it,” Deeds said. “This bill is just about en­cour­ag­ing and mak­ing sure that young peo­ple can be as in­volved as pos­si­ble.”

The leg­is­la­tion di­rects the Vir­ginia Fire Ser­vices Board, which over­sees the VDFP, to adopt a ju­nior mem­ber pol­icy to pro­vide guid­ance to fire and res­cue de­part­ments in de­vel­op­ing and ad­min­is­ter­ing non-haz­ardous train­ing cour­ses and pro­grams.

“If we can get young peo­ple that are high school age in­volved at least on an aux­il­iary ba­sis help­ing out, they might be in­ter­ested in even­tu­ally be­com­ing a fire­man. So that’s the idea be­hind the leg­is­la­tion,” Deeds said.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.