Supervisors urge attending fire meeting

Kennett Township supervisors urged their residents to attend next week’s meeting of the Kennett Fire and EMS Regional Commission, as well as future meetings.

“These commission meetings are the second Tuesday of every month at the Pennsbury Township building,” Supervisors’ Chairman Geoff Gamble said at Wednesday’s supervisors’ meeting. “You should attend because they’re making big, big bucks’ decisions that are affecting us.”

The meeting is at 5 p.m. on June 13.

Kennett TownshipGamble said the time for the public to voice their concerns or questions about fire and EMS costs would be now, and not later this year when municipal authorities like Kennett Township create their budgets for the following year with contribution amounts the Kennett Fire & EMS Regional Commission provide them.

In Pennsylvania, municipalities are required to have fire and EMS coverage available for their residents.

The Kennett Fire and EMS Regional Commission was formed in 2017 and includes Longwood, Kennett, and Po-Mar-Lin fire companies, and the townships of Kennett, East Marlborough, Pocopson, Pennsbury, and Newlin, and the borough of Kennett Square. It sets municipal contributions each year for operational and capital costs for the three fire companies and EMS service. Representatives from the fire companies and the municipalities sit on the commission.

Supervisors’ Vice Chairman Richard Leff said he attended the borough’s work session Monday where the borough’s financial challenges in providing fire and EMS coverage were discussed, adding, “There was a fair amount of discussion of the challenges facing the borough.”

The borough hired Fitch & Associates “to review the borough’s expenditures as it relates to its membership in the commission,” according to a May 22 press release from Kennett Borough. “This review includes an assessment of overall efficiency and will help determine what the appropriate cost to the borough should be based on call volume, the size of the municipality, response times, etc. The objective of the review is to promote fairness, help foster a sustainable strategic plan for the commission, and provide the best (and most efficient) service for borough residents based on a thorough evaluation of objective data.”

During last year’s municipal budget process, Kennett Township and four of the other municipalities in the commission had to incorporate a roughly 30 percent increase in their required contributions, while Kennett Borough had a one-time, 4 percent increase because of financial challenges.

“Eden [Ratliff, Kennett Township’s manager] is attending a meeting tonight about deliberations on how [the borough] is going to move forward,” Gamble said, referring to Kennett Borough’s June 7 regular council meeting. He added that for 2023, Kennett Township residents and those of East Marlborough, Newlin, Pocopson, and Pennsbury essentially helped to subsidize fire and emergency service coverage for the borough residents.

Leff said the borough had brought in Fitch & Associates “because they’re challenged financially with staying in the fire and EMS commission.”

Some of Fitch’s recommendations, according to the proposal they made to the borough on June 5, included appointing an administrator to the commission and requiring a unanimous vote by the commission on the budget, among other things. If those recommendations weren’t approved, a second recommendation was for the borough to “commit staffing and/or financial support to Kennett Fire Company.”

Fitch’s proposal can be found at under the 2023 council meeting documents for June 5.

Leff said at Wednesday’s Kennett Township meeting that the hikes in municipal contribution requirements arose because of things like the lack of available volunteer firefighters in the area and the need for paid firefighter positions to help with staffing; rising costs for capital expenditures such as new trucks, ambulances, and equipment; and rising costs to operate the three fire companies and Longwood Fire Company’s EMS service.

“The first three years of the commission, there was zero percent increase” to the municipalities, according to Leff. “The last two years it was 30 percent. I haven’t seen the numbers yet for this coming year.”

The lack of volunteer firefighters and the need to offset that with a mix of volunteer and paid firefighters is an issue across the country. The National Volunteer Fire Council ( estimates that volunteer firefighters represent 65 percent of all the firefighters in the United States, despite the number of volunteers decreasing every year. The National Fire Protection Association estimates that 82 percent of fire departments across the nation are volunteer or staffed by a combination of volunteer and paid firefighters.

For the last two years, the Kennett Fire & EMS Commission has offered volunteer firefighters a stipend.

“As there have been fewer and fewer volunteer firefighters over the years – roughly 85 or 90 percent fewer volunteers than 40 years ago – just to get started as a firefighter volunteer you have to do 185 hours of training,” Leff said. “That’s just the basics. The commission has actually [tried] to help volunteer firefighters who put in the training and the hours with some stipends that are nominal and help with their expenses.”

And the cost of capital equipment for the three fire companies and EMS service will only be increasing as trucks and ambulances that are nearing the end of their productivity, need to be replaced.

“We’re talking enormous amounts of money here over the next 25 years for capital equipment,” Gamble said. “That’s something we need to pay very close attention to.”

Township Finance Director Amy Heinrich referenced a 2021 vehicle study that will be a topic of conversation with the commission at their June 13 meeting. Potentially large increases in capital improvement and operational costs are things that probably should be discussed, she said at Wednesday’s township supervisors’ meeting.

“There are big numbers out there, but I don’t really think the commissioners have absorbed that, gotten feedback from their residents, or challenged that,” Heinrich said. “That’s a conversation we’re trying to spur.”

About Monica Fragale

Monica Thompson Fragale is a freelance reporter who spent her life dreaming of being in the newspaper business. That dream came true after college when she started working at The Kennett Paper and, years later The Reporter newspaper in Lansdale and other dailies. She turned to non-profit work after her first daughter was born and spent the next 13 years in that field. But while you can take the girl out of journalism, you can’t take journalism out of the girl. Offers to freelance sparked the writing bug again started her fingers happily tapping away on the keyboard. Monica lives with her husband and two children in Kennett Square.



1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (No Ratings Yet)

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.