Legislation sponsored by Senator Anthony M. Bucco and Senator Mike Doherty supporting essential volunteer firefighters in the state was advanced by the Senate Law and Public Safety Committee today.
Senator Anthony M. Bucco and Senator Mike Doherty’s bill supporting essential volunteer firefighters and allow more of them to qualify for membership in the NJ State Firemen’s Association advanced today. (Pixabay)
The bill, S-3277, would allow more firefighters to qualify for membership in the New Jersey State Firemen’s Association (NJSFA) and earn exempt firefighter certificates.
Under the measure, which would increase the maximum eligibility age to benefit from membership from 45 to 57, firefighters could begin serving with the fire service later in life and still qualify for exempt status.
“Communities across our state rely on volunteer firefighters to protect lives and property,” said Bucco (R-25), a 40-year member and former captain with the Boonton Volunteer Fire Department. “I am proud of my volunteer service and proud of this legislation. It will help bolster the volunteer ranks and better acknowledge the contributions of dedicated volunteers who put the needs of their neighbors and the fire company above their own.”
Under current law, firefighters are required to join the fire service between the ages of 18 and 45 in order to be eligible for an exempt fireman certificate. To qualify for an exempt status, volunteers must have responded to a minimum of 60 percent of their department’s fire duty calls over a seven-year period.
“Volunteer firefighters are essential assets for our communities, especially in suburban and rural areas,” said Doherty (R-23). “Age does not affect the selfless commitment of volunteer responders who willingly drop what they are doing to answer the call at any hour. The current age limits fail to reflect today’s realities. By expanding the age requirements, we can attract more dedicated candidates to the fire service to help keep our towns and cities safe.”
Formed in 1885, the New Jersey State Firemen’s Association includes any fire company, department or fire district that is under municipal control. The mission of the association is to establish, provide for and maintain a fund for the relief, support or burial of needy firefighters and their families, and the families of any person who is injured or dies as the result of doing public fire duty.
Among the benefits available to members, the nonprofit NJSFA provides burial benefits and relief assistance to qualified firefighters and their dependents, based on the length of firefighter service with a maximum payment of $12,000 for a fully qualified member.
The Assembly version of the bill was approved by a vote of 75-0 in January.
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