Senator Laughlin proposes using former inmates as volunteer firefighters

"There's nothing more satisfying than helping somebody in need... it's a reward you'll have for a lifetime."  Those are the words of Fire Chief Jim Pyle.  But, it seems the gratification of helping your fellow man is no longer enough to encourage people to sign up to be volunteer firefighters.  

Rick Robie, Firefighter with IRT Team, says, "There's a lot of demands nowadays that we didn't have years ago. It takes several incomes to keep a household going."

There's been a shortage for some time now at the McKean Hose Company.  Fire Chief Pyle has been involved for 43 years, never making a dime.  "My father was a firefighter and fire chief. And I just carried on that tradition...  it's just what I love to do."

The department only has around 25 volunteers serving roughly 5,000 people and covering about 36 square miles.  They're lucky if a handful of their volunteers show up for a fire call.  Pyle says, "We're really short during the daytime hours, that's why we went to paid staff. And I really think that's the way of the future."

Because of the declining number of volunteers, State Senator Dan Laughlin thinks the answer to the problem may lie within our prisons.  "Some of these inmates that we have... when they get out, they need to get a leg-up in society."  Laughlin proposing that non-violent inmates receive firefighter training while in prison.  He says some federal funds may be available to pay for the equipment.  "It would give them something to put on their resume while they're looking for a job, and involve them in the community in a positive way... instead of being frowned upon."

Though it's in the beginning stages, Laughlin believes it could be a win-win.  He will be discussing the proposal with Secretary Wetzel from the Department of Corrections.  He is working to set up a meeting within the next few weeks to discuss the details.


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