Oklahoma House of Representatives
September 8, 2009
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Contact: State Rep. Joe Dorman
Capitol: (405) 557-7305
Dorman Conducts Legislative Study
On Incentives for Continued Firefighter Training
OKLAHOMA CITY- State Rep. Joe Dorman conducted an interim study today to look at ways to maintain adequate training for rural firefighters.
Dorman, along with members of the House Appropriations and Budget Natural Resources Subcommittee and officials from Oklahoma State University Fire Training, the Oklahoma State Firefighters Association, the Council on Fire Training and Oklahoma Career Technology Centers discussed further incentives to entice volunteer firefighters to continue training.
According to the Oklahoma Rural Firefighters, 90 percent of firefighters are volunteers.
“We need to maintain the balance for necessary skills and knowledge, but not demand so much that it will reduce recruitment and endanger the number of volunteer departments in our state,” said Dorman, D-Rush Springs. “By expanding the scope of tax incentives to benefit these volunteers when they undergo more training, it becomes a win-win situation for the firefighters and rural Oklahoma .”
According to Ralph Brown of the OSU Fire Service Training, only 45 of 1,000 Oklahoma fire departments are paid with the rest either mixed departments with both paid and volunteer firefighters or strictly volunteer. He noted that there are over 17,000 volunteer firefighters in the state with more needed to protect rural Oklahoma .
Currently, Oklahoma offers a $200 tax credit for volunteer firefighters and a $400 tax credit for volunteer firefighters that take classes to obtain the Fire Fighter 1 standing.
Dorman said he hopes to expand the credits from two credits to four to expand and retain volunteer firefighters.
“I would like to see a $300 tax credit for volunteer firefighters who continue their education then the $400 credit for obtaining Fire Fighter 1 standing, then offer a $500 credit for any training after obtaining Fire Fighter 1,” said Dorman. “It is critical we maintain effective volunteer departments with well-trained firefighters, as well as provide every avenue of funding and affordable training for them.”
Dorman added that 136 hours are needed to reach Fire Fighter 1 standing.
“Many of these volunteers have other full-time jobs and are volunteering as a service to keep their community safe-they are putting their lives on the line for free,” said Dorman. “They need to have these incentives to entice them to use their free time to get more training and stay a volunteer.”
Recently, a glitch in the tax form for the $400 was identified that may have created problems for those seeking to receive the tax credit on next year's tax filing. A new corrected form is now available online at on www.osufst.org, www.okcareertech.org, and www.coft-oklahoma.org
Dorman also encouraged all volunteer firefighters to review the process for applying for the various tax credits offered by the state.
“This is a program that was established to not only recruit firefighters for volunteer departments, but also to encourage firefighters to enhance their training,” said Dorman. “Every bit of knowledge from these classes might save a life and help protect the property of residents of rural fire districts.”