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Task Force Report Recommends Grant Programs, Tax Incentives & Improved Training for Volunteer Fire Service

COLUMBUS, Ohio –Gov. Mike DeWine’s Volunteer Fire Service Task Force recently delivered its 31-page report containing the group’s recommendations to improve volunteer fire service in Ohio.

“This report emphasizes Ohio’s leadership in protecting our state’s citizens,” said Gov. DeWine. “The Task Force has given us a roadmap to continue improving the critical service our first responders provide Ohio’s communities.”

The comprehensive report contains recommendations across several focus areas that include:
•    Volunteer recruitment and retention. 
•    Training issues to enhance volunteer firefighter training. 
•    Financial stability of Ohio’s volunteer fire departments. 

“The task force, through its report, has brought a much needed conversation on how we continue to protect all Ohio communities that utilize volunteer fire service” said Gov. DeWine. “I applaud the work completed in such a short time and am pleased to include several program recommendations in my Executive Budget.”

Governor DeWine reviewed the initial report and included some recommended items in his Executive Budget without raising taxes or fees. Those items include:
•    Hire a full-time volunteer coordinator within the State Fire Marshall’s Office –approximately $90,000 per year.
•    Develop series of volunteer firefighter recruitment PSAs – approximately $200,000.
•    Waive State Fire Marshall Academy fees for volunteer fire fighters – approximately $600,000 over the biennium.
•    Update and expand current training IT system – approximately $350,000.
•    Increase firefighter I and II Grants – approximately $600,000 over the biennium.
•    Increase equipment grants – approximately $2 million over the biennium. 
“The task force is pleased that so many of our recommendations were put into the budget without an increase in fees or taxes,” said State Fire Marshal Kevin Reardon. “These quick actions will make a direct, positive impact on improving the volunteer fire service is Ohio’s communities.”

Many of the proposed recommendations will require legislative support and approval while others will require policy changes within existing programs that regulate firefighter and EMS training and support. Several additional recommendations include:
•    Length of service awards program.
•    Tuition vouchers for higher education.
•    State income tax credit.
•    Local property tax abatement.
•    Expanding paid leave for State employees.
•    Institute live-in programs for college students, young singles, and others.
•    Establishing a new firefighter turnout gear grant program. 
•    Redesign training curriculum to improve competencies.
•    Volunteer cadet program.
In April 2022, Gov. DeWine formed the task force to study the volunteer fire service in Ohio. The group was spearheaded by the Ohio Department of Commerce, chaired by State Fire Marshal Kevin Reardon, and comprised of local elected officials and firefighters from all around the state. 

Gov. DeWine has charged the task force to continue its work with a next phase examining response times for both fire and EMS incident calls. 

“We are excited to build on the initial success of the task force’s work,” said Reardon. “The members of the task force are ready, willing, and able to begin phase two to support the Governor’s vision and support continued improvements for the fire service.“

See the full report and for more on the Volunteer Fire Service Task Force and its mission, visit the State Fire Marshal’s website at com.ohio.gov/fire.

The State Fire Marshal is part of the Ohio Department of Commerce, Ohio’s chief regulatory agency. The Department is focused on promoting prosperity and protecting what matters most to Ohioans. We ensure businesses follow the laws that help them create jobs and keep Ohioans safe. To learn more about what we do, visit our website at com.ohio.gov.