With the upcoming retirement of the Centre Region’s long-time Fire Director, the question becomes if it will spark changes for the State College based Alpha Fire Company. It remains primarily a volunteer unit, but how long can it retain that status?
When you combine the number of Residents served and the size of the region covered, the Alpha Fire Company remains unique in terms of being a primarily volunteer based unit. Centre Region Fire Director Steve Bair saying: “If you look at it in terms of population we’re one of the largest in the Country.” Steve Bair is both the Alpha Fire Company Chief and the Centre Region Fire Director. After 16 years here and close to 47 years as a Firefighter, Bair is retiring in a few weeks.
The Alpha’s handle close to 1,300 calls a years — that’s nearly four a day. They are funded by Centre Region Municipalities, and a fair share of their nearly 95 Members are volunteers from Penn State. Bair adding: “So we have good membership and we’re well funded. The community supports us through funding. That allows us extra time to more specialty training.”
Bair feels — for the near future at least — the Alphas current funding structure will continue, but the region is growing. More high rises alone in State College present unique challenges. They’ve been studying adding more paid Firefighters for nearly twenty years. Bair saying: “Its inevitable, they’ll be adding more professional Firefighters. Over the years, the ratio of paid staff to volunteers will be changing.”
Bair’s recommendation for addressing Fire Company funding problems? Bair, in closing: “I believe Local Governments and the State Government needs to optimize Fire Services. Everyone in the State has personnel shortages.”