ALBANY — New York’s more than 81,000 volunteer firefighters save taxpayers an estimated $3.8 billion a year in wages and benefits at a time when their ranks are dwindling but recruitment efforts are being ramped up, according to a study released by the Firefighters Association of the State of New York.

“We’re just trying to show what the value of volunteer service is to the citizens of New York,” said John S. D’Alessandro,  the organization’s secretary and a commissioner with the Halfmoon-Waterford Fire District in Saratoga County. 

D’Alessandro and other board members with the statewide association said the critical roles of volunteer emergency responders in most counties outside of New York City is often taken for granted and the study the group commissioned is part of an effort to educate the public “on the significant role that the volunteers play and the value that they bring ot the taxpayers.”

The analysis by Resolution Economics, Inc., which has a staff of economists and policy analysts, sought to measure the economic value of volunteer fire departments across New York. The study also estimated the costs of transforming all-volunteer fire departments outside of New York City to paid departments, which it pegged at $188 million a year in general operating costs and an additional $83.8 million annually to maintain equipment and structures.

“Volunteer firefighters reduce municipal government expenses by eliminating the need to pay for career firefighter wages, benefits, and related costs,” the study found. “Volunteer organizations engage in extensive fundraising, which avoids tax levies for purchasing, maintaining, and operating firefighting equipment. Municipalities do not need to spend funds on fire stations with living quarters or other structures, which saves them a full range of annual operating expenses such as administration and utility costs.

The complete article can be found in Albany Times Union (March 20, 2023)