During the East Allen Township Board of Supervisors meeting on Wednesday, August 14, Fire Chief Barry Frantz gave an update on the township’s volunteer fire department, its equipment, and its manpower.
For 2019, the fire department has 20 volunteers. Several of the volunteers are certified firefighters, paramedics and EMTs.
“[This] is one of the benefits we have of our fire department,” said Frantz.
However, the number of volunteers continues to dwindle, not just in East Allen Township but in Pennsylvania as a whole. Over the past 40 years, the number of volunteer firefighters statewide has dropped from 300,000 to 38,000.
Even as volunteer numbers continue to decline, fire calls are on the rise. East Allen volunteers deliver mutual aid to Allen Township, Bath, and North Catasauqua. For 2019, the department is expected to respond to an estimated 509 calls.
Frantz says this could be the highest number in Northampton County.
The department’s daytime response is “concerning,” according to Frantz. Volunteer numbers during the day are low due to family, work, and school obligations.
Frantz says the department is engaging in public outreach and educational programs to help recruit new members. Although the department spent a day at Northampton High School interacting with students, only three applications were filled out. None of the applicants have maintained communication with the department.
However, Frantz says the department will not give up.
In addition to low volunteer numbers, some equipment is also due to be replaced. The department’s engine is 21 years old and the tanker is over 30 years old. Fire gear must also be replaced every 10 years.
The department is pursuing grants to help pay for equipment and trucks.
The Board of Supervisors thanked Frantz and his department.
“This board is very thankful for what you do,” said President Roger Unangst.
Following the presentation, supervisors reviewed a draft ordinance that would give first-responders a 20 percent maximum tax break on property or income taxes.
This ordinance, said Manager Brent Green, can be used as a retention tool to help keep volunteers active. With only eight East Allen volunteer firefighters actually living in the township, Green hopes other municipalities can reciprocate this ordinance.
“The extra incentive may help with membership,” said Supervisor Don Heiney.
Solicitor Joseph Piperato will review the draft ordinance before a hearing is advertised.