Dispute over paying firefighters leads Bensalem to suspend volunteer fire company

    A volunteer fire company in Bucks County is suspended, after allegedly clashing with paid firefighters. 

    Bensalem Township Director of Public Safety Fred Harran said he decided to suspend Union Fire company, after at least a year of problems.  He said the leadership of the volunteer fire company needs to change–because leaders have refused to follow directions from the Township.  Harran said tensions mounted after some paid firefighters were hired to cover during the day when it was hard to turn out enough volunteers.  “They try to get their trucks out in an unsafe manner to fire scenes just to beat the paid guys,” said Harran.  “Which doesn’t make any sense to me.  I just can’t comprehend that logic.  It’s about putting the fire out and saving lives, it’s not about who gets there first.”Harran said for now other companies are covering Union Fire company’s fire territory.  He said a public meeting will be held on Thursday to give residents a chance to ask questions, and to reassure them that there will be no interuption of service or safety issues.

    WHYY has reached out to the fire company, but has yet to connect.

    Pennsylvania State Fire Commissioner Ed Mann said it’s becoming a necessity for towns to hire firefighters as volunteer ranks dwindle.  “In the mid-70s the numbers were estimated to be at 300,000 volunteers.  In the late 90s that number was closer to 70,000.  I estimate the number’s probably closer to 50,000 today.  The bottom line is, people are not volunteering to be firefighters as they once were.”

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