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States pass laws to address volunteer firefighter shortage

Several states have passed laws to encourage people to become volunteer firefighters and to make it easier for volunteers to pull away from work, and to keep employers from punishing employees who leave to fight fires or respond to emergency calls, according to David Finger with the National Volunteer Fire Council.

Also, Congress is considering separate measures that would give volunteers greater tax exemptions for mileage and help volunteer departments with rising fuel costs.

In West Virginia, which has lost about 2,000 volunteer firefighters in the past eight years, legislators are studying proposals that include a scholarship for volunteers and a type of pension plan.

Measures approved this year in state legislatures include:

  • Colorado passed a law that bars large employers from firing employees who leave work to respond to emergencies.
  • Nebraska lawmakers passed a law that bars employers from punishing employees who arrive to work late because they have responded to emergencies.
  • Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell recently signed a law that offers volunteer emergency responders a $100 income tax credit.

Louisiana lawmakers passed a similar measure last year.

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