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East Allen firefighters seek more participation, recruitment

At the Jan. 25 East Allen Township Board of Supervisors meeting, the East Allen Township Volunteer Fire Department leaders pitched a draft recruitment and incentive plan for the department and board review. East Allen, like many other volunteer fire departments, struggles to attract and keep firefighters.

The board of supervisors voted to approve the fire department’s request to develop the recruitment and incentive plan.

The board of supervisors placed a line in the 2024 township budget that has $75,000 to help fund recruiting and retention activities, as well as an incentive program for existing volunteers. Two fire department leaders, Chief Josh Smith and Deputy Chief Ray Henry, presented the department’s draft plan to the board.

The presenters lamented the fact that their manpower in the department is decreasing. They noted it is difficult to get volunteers because of the commitment needed to train to be a certified firefighter. It takes about six months, they said, to complete the training for certification as a Firefighter I. An applicant can spend many hours to attend and complete the training.

The suggested plans to develop a recruitment and incentive plan include possible financial stipends for firefighter certification, potential “per call payment,” a possible point system where a volunteer member can accrue points for time spent at the fire house, responding to calls and attending trainings and fire department events that can be exchanged for select items such as flashlights, hats and other small items of interest.

The proposed recruitment plan would employ a social media presence, redoing the fire department website and developing a family fire academy and a junior firefighter program.

Thoughts of offering to increase public education of the community like CPR training, fire extinguisher training, smoke and CO detectors training and more are being considered.

The draft plan includes board of supervisor oversight and involvement to have accountability and transparency by starting a new recruitment and incentive plan board. A supervisor would be assigned to sit on the board, which could also include township residents.

It was understood many details will have to be addressed. No date was set for the next step in the plan’s development.

The board briefly discussed the America 250 Destination Playground grant. There was a concern if the board would approve a 25% match with any grant funding. Township Manager Brent Green said the new playground equipment purchased with possible grant money would replace playground equipment installed before 2004. The board approved moving forward with the grant process.

In the public comment agenda item at the end of the meeting, a resident questioned the difference between the two monthly board meetings, held the second and fourth Thursday of the month.

Green said one meeting is a workshop and the second meeting is a regular monthly meeting. The workshop meeting is essentially confined to supervisors’ business, while the general meeting has supervisors’ business and reports from all the township’s departments.

It was additionally pointed out both meetings have permission for actionable items that can be voted on at either meeting. Many municipalities have all voting at the general meeting, with the workshop being used to set the agenda and discuss business, without any action.

The next meeting of the board of supervisors is set for 7 p.m. Feb. 8 at the municipal building, 5344 Nor-Bath Blvd. It is a hybrid meeting, with both in-person and virtual options. Visit eatwp.org for the access numbers to the virtual meeting and to review a copy of the meeting agenda.