EHT fire chief lobbying to allow increased funding for volunteer fire companies

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EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP – Egg Harbor Township Volunteer Fire Department Chief William Danz says state laws regulating how much money municipalities can give volunteer fire departments are out of date, and he is petitioning local lawmakers to have them updated.

Danz said his goal is to have the law changed to increase the maximum that towns can give the department for maintenance and equipment upgrades. He said the change is overdue.

“This bill first came to be in 1971 and was last amended in 1989,” he said.

“Under the present law, fire companies are only allowed $30,000 per year in municipal aid, which breaks down to $15,000 for new equipment and $15,000 for maintenance. At this time it has been 25 years since this bill has been updated to keep up with economy and the cost of living.”

Danz said South Jersey’s volunteer fire companies in particular have had trouble keeping up.

“In South Jersey counties, we have had extreme population growth due to the Pinelands Act. Volunteer fire companies across the state have had to add new stations to provide adequate fire protection. This has created a financial burden on the volunteer fire companies to fund these expansions,” he said.

Of the 741 fire departments in New Jersey, 582 are volunteer departments, and 109 are a combination of paid and volunteer. There are only 50 fully funded departments in the state.

Danz said he has meetings set up with Sen. James Whelan and Assemblymen Chris Brown and Vince Mazzeo to discuss the matter in hopes of getting a bill introduced. 

The Egg Harbor Township Committee unanimously voiced its support for Danz’s campaign at its meeting Feb. 12, and the Atlantic County Fire Fighters Association took similar action last week and plans to present the idea to the state association.

Danz said the Atlantic County Board of Freeholders will also consider a resolution in support at its next meeting.

“I am trying to get everyone on our bandwagon,” he said. “Anything we get is an improvement.”

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