Oklahoma State Fire Fighters Association Gathering Rural Volunteers for Meeting Next MonthFri, 22 Jan 2016 18:30:18 CST
The Oklahoma State Fire Fighters Association will be gathering next month. The OSFA Volunteer Caucus will be held on Saturday, February 6th at the Wyndham Garden Inn in Oklahoma City. OSFA Executive Director Phil Ostrander said this allows volunteer firefighters the opportunity to have direct input into the organization and determine legislative priorities. The volunteer fire fighters will be divided into small work groups, before the entire volunteer fire segment of the OSFA prioritizes those needs. While OSFA represents most volunteer fire fighters in Oklahoma, Ostrander wants as many volunteer fire fighters at this caucus.
In the 2016 legislative session, budget cuts will be the top concern. Ostrander said operational grants through the Department of Forestry that provide annual support to small fire departments will be targeted. Budget cuts to the forestry department will affect the operations at local fire departments.
ďFor a fire department thatís surviving on bean suppers and pie auctions, itís massive,Ē Ostrander said. ďIt makes a difference whether or not they can put fuel in their truck.Ē
With budget cuts, a tax credit program for volunteer fire fighters will also take a hit. For fire fighters that completed a training program, they were eligible for a $200 or $400 tax credit. Ostrander has already seen several bills filed for the 2016 state legislative session that will put the tax credit on hold for two years or reduce the credits by 25 percent or more.
One of the biggest challenges facing rural fire districts is recruitment and retention of firefighters. With the aging rural population, Ostrander said itís difficult to recruit firefighters as well as keep them. The association is looking for ideas and suggestions to present to the state legislature as well as Congress. Volunteer fire fighters are needed statewide. He said they arenít looking for perfect physical specimen to volunteer and they can find everyone an important job to do. He believes being a fire fighter is very rewarding.
If you plan on attending the OSFA Volunteer Caucus, pre-registration is needed for a proper meal count. A free lunch is being provided. Details are available online at www.osfa.info .
OSFA is the stateís oldest membership organization dating back to 1894. OSFA has about 15,000 members made up of rural fire fighters, paid fire fighters and retirees as well.
Radio Oklahoma Network's Leslie Smith caught up with Ostrander for a radio interview. Click or tap on the LISTEN BAR below.
Phil Ostrander will be joining Hays for our weekly In the Field report on KWTV News9 in the Oklahoma City market on Saturday morning at 6:40 AM.
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