Opinion

Red tape tangling up volunteer fire departments

An editorial from The Inter-Mountain

It would be much worse but for the efforts of thousands of dedicated men and women who serve in volunteer fire departments. That may be a good place for Carrico to start.

The vast majority of West Virginians are served by volunteer fire departments, not paid units. By their dedication to training and their courage, the volunteers save countless lives every year. We know of situations here in the Northern Panhandle where people survived blazes solely because of the volunteers.

It is much more difficult for volunteer fire companies to function these days. Finding men and women willing to make the sacrifices in time necessary to get training, then to stand ready to respond to fire calls, seems to be becoming more difficult. Anything Carrico and other state officials can do to encourage volunteers would be welcome assistance.

A growing concern is state and federal requirements on matters such as insurance and workers’ compensation coverage. The financial demands of meeting those rules have driven some volunteer fire units to close their doors. That leaves residents and businesses they once served dependent on other, often distant, fire departments.

No volunteer fire department should be forced to cease operations solely because it cannot pay the bills – with some of the big ones generated by government. Though it is not Carrico’s job to prevent that, perhaps he can alert legislators to the problem and, by working with volunteer firefighters, help find a solution to it. West Virginians should not be put at risk because of government red tape.

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