When Governor Josh Shapiro made a visit to the Altoona Fire Department on Monday morning, he was greeted by Lucille, the department’s Arson Dog.
Dogs like Lucille are an expensive luxury to fire departments, who also have to come up with thousands of dollars for everything else they need.
“Trucks and critical equipment like helmets, coats, pants, boots, and hoods. All of that has gone up,” said Governor Shapiro.
That’s why Governor Shapiro says he’s highlighting firefighters, EMS personnel, and law enforcement in his 2023 Budget proposal.
Elected officials and firefighters met outside of Fire Station Number One in Altoona where he discussed his plans for the fund allocation.
“I think people in Pennsylvania have a right to be safe and feel safe. In order to be safe and feel safe, you need to know when you make that 911 call, it will be answered in a timely manner,”
The Governor plans to distribute $36 million for equipment and training — for both firefighters and EMS providers — across the Commonwealth.
He also wants to allocate over $50 million for Pennsylvania’s 911 services and emergency communications systems.
“These are smart investments. At a time when we can put forth a fiscally conservative budget, we can also afford to make critical investments in public safety, and that’s what I’m proposing to do,” said Governor Shapiro.
The Blair County 911 Center takes about 84,000 calls per year,
In the 1970s, there were over 300,000 volunteer firefighters in Pennsylvania, compared to only 38,000 today.
Altoona Fire Chief Adam Free says those staffing issues along with inflation makes the job of a first responder even more difficult.
“In the past year alone, the cost of our personal protective clothing has risen over $1,000 per set. In the past four years, the cost of our self-contained breathing apparatuses has risen by more than $2,000 a piece,” he said.
The Altoona Fire Department ordered a new fire engine for $716,000 in January, which he says costed $530,000 back in 2018.
“These rising costs constantly strain our departments and negatively effect the essential services we provide to our citizens and communities,”
Governor Shapiro says Republicans and Democrats need to rally around the budget so that Pennsylvanians are always safe.
“There are lots of ways we can come together around common sense ideas that move our Commonwealth forward,”