New bill could help volunteer firefighter shortage

Volunteer firefighter shortage is a growing problem.

A new Senate bill filed at the federal level could help curb the growing shortage of volunteer firefighters. The bill would make volunteers eligible for a federal student loan forgiveness program.

The way it would work if it passes, after paying on the loans for ten years and dedicating ten years to the volunteer service, the remaining loans would be forgiven. This is a solution to a problem years in the making. Current volunteer firefighters have not joined the departments at as high of a rate as past generations. This creates departments filled with older firefighters and an increased demand in staffing needs.

“When we look and consider a department that is aging out and isn’t receiving that young help, it will ultimately reach a demise and no longer have anyone left to provide the service,” said Bryan Riebe who is the Recruitment & Retention Coordinator for SC Firefighters Association.

If a solution isn’t found soon, some firefighters predict in the next decade there may only be paid firefighters, which would cause communities to raise taxes in order to pay them.

The current bill is sponsored by a Montana senator and is in the early stages. Stay with 7News for updates as it progresses through Congress.