PA. FIREFIGHTERS Rallying for funds

The two lawmakers rallying in Sharpsville couldn't stop their colleagues from cutting the funding last year.
SHARPSVILLE, Pa. -- Two Pennsylvania state representatives rallied Monday in support of increasing funding for fire companies across the state.
Timothy Solobay of Washington, Pa., D-48th, an assistant volunteer fire chief in Canonsburg, Pa., said volunteer firefighters save the state about $6 billion a year.
He and State Rep. Michael Gruitza of Mercer, D-7th, joined volunteer firefighters from Mercer County during a press conference at the Sharpsville Volunteer Fire Department.
Solobay said he and other state lawmakers were disappointed last year when they were unable to prevent the Legislature from removing funding for volunteer fire, rescue and ambulance companies from the state's 2001-02 budget.
He said that funding, about $25 million, was to be used for equipment, recruitment, training and miscellaneous operating costs.
Legislation: Solobay plans by the end of the year to introduce legislation, which Gruitza said he will co-sponsor, that would provide $35 million for annual grants of $15,000 to volunteer fire companies, which is about $5,000 more than they received during 2000-01, the last year volunteer companies were included in the state's budget.
The proposed measure would also supply $5 million for an annual grant program for volunteer ambulance services.
Solobay said there are about 2,600 volunteer fire companies in the state and 56 paid units. He said there are some 100 companies that have paid employees as well as volunteers.
He said volunteer fire fighters spend 90 percent of their time fund raising and the other 10 percent fighting fires and training.

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