Two York County volunteer fire departments to merge

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DILLSBURG, YORK COUNTY, Pa. -- Two York County communities will see some changes coming to their volunteer fire companies as the departments combine resources.

The changes come as a solution to a problem that many local fire departments face in Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania has more volunteer fire departments than any other state.

The number of volunteers joining the ranks isn't what it used to be, and that has many fire companies thinking about the future.

Dillsburg's Citizens Hose Co. No. 1 and Franklintown and community Fire are merging together to form one department.

Northern York County EMS Steering Committee chairman Frank Wirth said "Northern York County Fire Rescue EMS Incorporated is going to be our new name."

The two individual fire stations will remain open for the time being, as much as of the merger is on paper.

"The bylaws need to be written, we need to develop or update our SOPs, our standard operating procedures, and also we need to go through the legal process," Wirth said.

Pooling resources is a process that dozens of volunteer fire companies are considering.

"Staffing was a major driving force," Wirth said.

Pennsylvania Department of Command Economic Development deputy secretary Rick Vilello said "when you look at 1975, there were 323,000 volunteer fire fighters in Pennsylvania. Today, there are less than 50,000."

Finding volunteers as well as finding the money necessary to keep local fire departments going are their biggest challenges.

"You have to hire a CPA, and they're usually $15 to $20,000 a year. So, if you're doing one instead of two, that's $15,000 right there," Vilello said.

"It's not going to be a very large savings, it's more of to make the organization stronger and more effective and to survive into the future," Wirth said.

"Your volunteers are spending less time doing the non- profit boardsmanship and actually able to do what they do best and fight fires," Vilello said.

While a fire fighter's purpose may stay the same, there are some other changes coming to these fire trucks besides a new name.

"As we replace apparatus, there will be a color scheme developed, right now, we are working on a new patch that is going to probably incorporate the colors and history of both organizations," Wirth said.

"We would encourage all of the other ones that are kind of thinking 'we're struggling, we're getting older, the guys that are doing it are all getting gray or losing their hair,' and it's time to start thinking what is fire protection going to look like in our community in 20 years," Vilello said.

Everything comes together with the first official meeting of the newly formed fire company in July.

At that time, members will elect new officers, adopt new bylaws, and agree to take on the existing assets and debt into the new organization.

There may be other changes taking place in the long term.

"We pretty much as it relates to the needs of the community, we have what we need. In the future, we are looking at from our business plan that we've developed, a newer fire station," Wirth said.