HARRISBURG – The challenges facing volunteer fire departments in PA was the subject of a public hearing of the PA Senate Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee. Fire chiefs, firefighters, and other stakeholders attended the hearing to discuss the recruitment and retention of volunteer fire personnel. Committee Chairman, Somerset County Sen. Pat Stefano said the number of volunteer firefighters is down considerably from about 300,000 in the early 70’s to about 38,000 now. Stefano is the prime sponsor of Senate Bill 83 which would award three grants of $150,000 each to community colleges and universities in the State System of Higher Education. The grants would be used to establish fire training programs for students during the school year with the hope that they would remain firefighters for years to come.