New bill would require volunteer firefighters to pay licensing fees

Gary Alexander

A new bill before the state legislature would require emergency service workers to pay for their own state certifications. The bill, requested as a cost-cutting measure by the state Department of Health, would also apply to unpaid volunteers.

"Passing on a professional fee to the volunteers who do not have the compensation to cover such is bad policy," T.J. Nedrow, legislative chairman for the Washington State Firefighters Association, is quoted as saying in the Seattle Times.

Small fire departments that rely partly or entirely on volunteers would face the risk of losing the man-power that they rely upon.  Already cash-strapped, they would likely be forced to cover the cost of certification themselves.  

Twenty years ago, two thirds of Washington’s emergency service responders were volunteers, but now that number is only 40 percent, state Health Secretary Mary Selecky told the Seattle Times. The bill would also charge public and private ambulance agencies licensing fees.

“It seems to me this is kind of an unfair deal, to impose a license-fee obligation on somebody who is giving their time and energy without any reimbursement," Rep. Gary Alexander, an Olympia Republican said.

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