July 8, 2008

Auditor General Jack Wagner Praises More Than 500 Pennsylvania Firefighters for Attending Spring Workshops

HARRISBURG, Pa., July 8 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Auditor General Jack Wagner thanked Pennsylvania volunteer firefighters today for keeping their communities safe from harm and for making the 2008 spring Volunteer Firefighters' Relief Association workshops a success.

A total of 523 volunteer fire department officers and members attended the nine free workshops, which help volunteer fire departments meet requirements for state funding. The workshops were offered by the Department of the Auditor General from April 15 through June 5.

"These workshops provided volunteer firefighters with the training, information and resources they needed to meet the guidelines of this important funding source," Wagner said.

Several attendees said the training sessions were both "excellent" and "effective." And according to Wagner, the workshops were so helpful that 100 percent of questionnaire respondents suggested that they be continued. Workshops will be held again in the fall with dates and locations to be listed on the Auditor General Web site.

The 2008 spring workshops were held on these dates at the following locations:

   -- 4/15/08 - Harbor Creek Fire Co. - Erie County   -- 4/17/08 - Central Fire Co., Punxsutawney - Jefferson County   -- 4/24/08 - Allegheny County Fire Training Academy - Allegheny County   -- 5/13/08 - Montgomery County Fire Academy - Montgomery County   -- 5/22/08 - Cresson Vol. Fire Co. - Cambria County   -- 5/28/08 - Gettysburg Fire Dept. - Adams County   -- 5/29/08 - Connellsville Twp. Vol. Fire Dept. - Fayette County   -- 6/4/08 - Wright Twp. Vol. Fire Dept., Mountain Top - Luzerne County   -- 6/5/08 - Willing Hand Hose Co., Montoursville - Lycoming County   

All of the workshops were instructed by Department of the Auditor General employees. They gave emergency service volunteers the opportunity to receive first-hand instruction on administrative procedures and have questions answered regarding relief-association matters.

The commonwealth distributed more than $67 million to 1,967 local VFRAs in 2007. These funds are primarily used to provide financial protection to volunteer emergency service personnel against any disability that might occur during participation in the fire service as well as to purchase various types of fire equipment and to pay expenses to train volunteers.

VFRAs are non-profit organizations established to afford financial protection to volunteer firefighters who suffer misfortune as a result of their participation in the fire service. VFRAs receive state aid from a 2-percent state tax on fire insurance purchased by Pennsylvania residents from insurance companies incorporated outside of the commonwealth. These funds are used to pay for insurance to protect volunteer firefighters, to purchase fire equipment and to cover volunteer training expenses. VFRAs are distinct separate legal entities from fire companies.

The department of the Auditor General is responsible for auditing VFRAs in order to ensure their funds are spent according to state law. The department conducts such workshops in order to help local firefighters comply with VFRA regulations.

Wagner's strong support for fire departments and fire-related safety issues date back to his own experience as an Emergency Medical Technician, working his way through Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

"I understand first-hand and have a deep respect for what volunteers do for our communities across the commonwealth," Wagner said.

For additional information on future training sessions, call the Bureau of Firefighters' Relief Audits at (717) 787-1308; or e-mail them at [email protected]

Auditor General Jack Wagner is responsible for ensuring that all state money is spent legally and properly. He is the commonwealth's elected independent fiscal watchdog, conducting financial audits, performance audits, and special investigations. The Department of the Auditor General conducts approximately 5,000 audits per year. To learn more about the Department of the Auditor General, taxpayers are encouraged to visit the department's website at www.auditorgen.state.pa.us.

Pennsylvania Department of the Auditor General

CONTACT: Steve Halvonik of the Pennsylvania Department of the AuditorGeneral, +1-717-787-1381

Web Site: http://www.auditorgen.state.pa.us/