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Volunteer firefighters could get retirement
Volunteer firefighters.jpg
State lawmakers are trying to determine a way to give longtime volunteer firefighters a type of pension for their years of service. Pictured are members of the Centertown Volunteer Fire Department extinguishing a car fire on New Nashville Highway.

Volunteer firefighters are ready to spring into action at any hour of the day or night.

They may soon be able to receive some compensation for their service.

State lawmakers are considering House Bill 612, a measure which would establish a retirement system for volunteer firefighters based on their length of service.

“I’m agreeable to just about anything that’s favorable for our volunteer firefighters,” said state Rep. Rush Bricken, who represents Warren County in the 47th District. “In this day, it’s getting difficult to recruit volunteer firefighters. This younger generation doesn’t seem to want to volunteer as much. So I support anything that could serve as an incentive for people to volunteer.”

According to information presented by lawmakers, the majority of Tennessee’s firefighters are volunteers. The State Fire Marshal’s Office reported 22,065 active firefighters in Tennessee in 2020. Of that, 14,218 (64%) are volunteers and 7,847 (35.6%) are career firefighters.

House Bill 612 authorizes the State Treasurer to inquire with local governments and the volunteer fire departments about establishing a Length of Service Award Program for volunteers providing firefighting services, emergency medical services, and ambulance services.

The program would be like a pension plan for volunteer firefighters.

Such a program would be funded by contributions from the local government or nonprofit entities that utilize the services of eligible volunteers.

To be eligible to receive benefits from the LOSAP, an individual must be a bona fide volunteer who receives no compensation for their services and instead receives only reimbursement for reasonable expenses or benefits and nominal fees customarily paid to them.  

House Bill 612 is scheduled for consideration in the Local Government Committee on Tuesday.