Pa. city officials propose time off policy for volunteer firefighters

Officials requested a policy that would allow volunteer firefighters to take unpaid time off if they respond to an emergency prior to their shift

By Daveen Rae Kurutz
Beaver County Times

BEAVER, Pa. — The chairman of Beaver County's commissioners wants to offer some relief to volunteer firefighters who work for the county.

Commissioners Chairman Daniel Camp this week requested the county develop a policy that would allow volunteer firefighters who work for the county to take unpaid time off without penalty if they responded to an emergency prior to their shift.

"If they're coming in late, they shouldn't have to use a vacation day for that," Camp said.

He said he wouldn't recommend the policy for departments that have scheduled shift work, such as the 911 center or the county jail, but for those firefighters who work in administrative offices at the courthouse. He suggested that measures be included to ensure the policy isn't abused. Firefighters wouldn't be allowed to leave a shift to take a call, he said.

Camp said he was contacted by Center Township Fire Chief William Brucker after Monday's pipeline explosion because one of the Center Township volunteer firefighters who responded to the incident needed to take a vacation or sick day. Brucker didn't want the firefighter to get in trouble, Camp said, which made him realize that while firefighters are protected by the federal Volunteer Firefighters Act, the county didn't have an accommodating policy.

"I want the board to consider allowing any volunteer firefighter that is a county employee to have an excused, nonpaid day off if they were at an incident," Camp said.

Commissioner Tony Amadio said he supported the idea. He recalled spending the night at the crash site of Flight 427 in Hopewell Township 24 years ago and not being able to attend work the next day.

The region struggles to retain volunteer firefighters, and these types of measures could help encourage more volunteers, Amadio said.

"It's so hard for these communities to get volunteer firefighters," Amadio said. "If there's something we can do within the law to help them, we should."

Camp asked that human resources and the law department work to develop the policy.

Copyright 2018 Beaver County Times

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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