All firefighters take risks for the public good when they respond to emergencies. Volunteers have the added burden of putting their livelihoods at risk, and that's part of the ongoing crisis that departments have in trying to recruit new members.
Under state law, volunteers are covered by workers' compensation policies carried by the municipal governments in the communities that they serve.
But that applies only to the volunteers actually engaged in emergency responses, rather than to all active volunteers.
Volunteers who serve primarily in support roles aren't covered, even though they are not immune from injuries while serving.
As part of a broader effort to improve volunteer service recruiting, the state Senate has passed a bill that would extend workers compensation coverage to all active volunteers of fire and ambulance companies. It would exclude social members.
Because the bill would result in more people being covered, some municipal governments likely would face higher workers' compensation premiums. But volunteers still would be an extraordinary bargain, far less expensive than funding full-time departments.
The bill, which originally was cosponsored by Republican Sen. Lisa Baker of Lehman Twp. and independent Sen. John Yudichak of Swoyersville, is now in the House.
The House should join the Senate in giving volunteers the assurance that they will be compensated if injured while serving.
The Citizens' Voice (Wilkes-Barre, Pa.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.