Forum Adam

Elected officials, township managers, and Fire Service leadership gathered at the new Northampton Township Fire Station for the Bucks County Association of Township Officials (BCATO) presentation, “Answering the Call…What’s Your Next Step?” The program aimed to address current challenges in providing municipal fire services and present 21st-century strategies to township officials.

Adam Selisker, Chairman of the Northampton Board of Supervisors and Chief of Fire and Rescue Services for Northampton Township opened the program by reminding officials of their duty under the Second-Class Township Code to secure the health, safety, and welfare of township citizens. "This is a shall, not a, “may.” Providing for fire service is not discretionary," emphasized Selisker.

Data from the Bucks County Planning Commission's 2021 report, "The Future of Bucks County Fire Services," indicated that 45% of volunteers are over 40, with 26% over 50. Only 10% of active firefighters are "juniors," meaning young firefighters likely to serve ten or more years

Kevin Dippolito, Career Chief, Fire Marshal, and Emergency Management Director for Bristol Township highlighted the demanding training requirements for new volunteers, which include 203 hours for Firefighter 1, 88 hours for vehicle rescue, and 16 hours for driving a fire truck. “The initial training is two nights per week and one full weekend day for four months,” stated Dippolito.

Selisker shared Northampton Township's 17-year transition from an all-volunteer fire service to a combination career/volunteer department. After the Fire Company approached the Board of Supervisors in 2007, a Federal SAFER Grant was awarded in 2009, and another in 2018 that provided career firefighters to supplement the volunteers. The township operated with a mixed model for nine years until it became unsustainable. Now, Northampton Township provides 24/7 coverage with career staff, while volunteers remain a crucial component of fire service delivery.

Northampton Township Manager Bob Pellegrino addressed budget questions and explained that career firefighters are full-time at-will township employees. Selisker introduced chiefs from around the county to discuss their municipalities' fire service models.

In Bristol Township, the Career Fire Rescue department work from 6 AM to 4:30 PM, supporting five volunteer companies, a model praised by Council President Craig Bowen. Fire Marshal Jim Kettler of Buckingham Township described coverage by three volunteer companies and emphasized the need for more training due to extreme weather events.
Bristol Borough Chief Steve Reeves discussed the ongoing consolidation of the borough's five fire companies, driven by grassroots efforts and Borough Council support. The Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) study provided a consolidation plan. Recruitment efforts include a presence at Borough events and collaborating with the high school to attract 2-4 Junior Firefighters per year.

Lee Greenberg, Director of Emergency Services for Warrington, described the township's evolution from a part-time career department to a full-time one, including licensing for Quick Response Service (EMS Calls). He advised starting by hiring in pairs and perhaps beginning with drivers.

Bensalem Township’s Deputy Director of Public Safety, Bob Race, spoke about consolidating six volunteer fire departments. Despite various incentives such as tax incentives and stipends, consolidation was necessary and supported by the council. Race emphasized the importance of political support for successful consolidation efforts.

Bucks County Commissioner Bob Harvie and State Representative Tim Brennan (PA 29) shared brief remarks acknowledging their support for Emergency Services and the shared concern for providing service coverage across the county was evidenced by attendees from Bensalem to Milford and across the county.

Adam Selisker wrapped up the event by reiterating the local responsibility for fire services and a call to action. "This is a local problem, and we own it. It’s up to you to determine what the fire service looks like in your municipality."

(Notes: This program is a presentation of the BCATO Emergency Services Committee, led by BCATO Executive Board members Ken Lichtenstein, Supervisor, Plumstead Township, and Ruth Schemm, Supervisor, Warrington Township with member support from Maggie Rash, Supervisor, Buckingham Township, BCATO President, Michelle Benetiz, Councilwoman Bensalem, Chester Pogonowski, Chairman Wrightstown Township, Adam Selisker, Chairman Northampton Township and Chief of Fire and Rescue for Northampton Township, Kevin Dippolito, Career Chief, Fire Marshal, and Emergency Management Director for Bristol Township.)

Recent Articles