If you see a firefighter rescuing residents from a burning house or building, you should know that, in most of Minnesota, that firefighter is probably a volunteer. The same may be true of the emergency medical technician you see assisting someone.
Inver Grove Heights Fire Chief Judy Thill told the House Taxes Committee Tuesday that “92 percent of our firefighters in Minnesota are volunteers. We have the second highest percentage of volunteers in the nation.” The Minnesota Ambulance Association’s Legislative Affairs Director Buck McAlpin added, “About 62 percent of our 28,000 EMTs and paramedics in Minnesota are volunteers.”
Becoming a firefighter or EMT requires a lot of time and training, and it’s clear that people are deciding that they just don’t have the time anymore. “While it used to be 20 years or more that volunteer firefighters would stay on a fire department, now the average is five years,” Thill said. “And the first one or two years is solely on training.”
What’s going to get firefighters and EMTs to stick around? Well, how about a tax credit? HF1993, sponsored by Rep. John Huot (DFL-Rosemount), would establish a $500 nonrefundable tax credit for volunteer firefighters, EMTs or ambulance service people. The bill was laid over for possible inclusion in the omnibus tax bill.