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Guest Opinion

Why I left elected office to join the Perkasie Fire Company


Data shows that in your lifetime, you have a one-in-four chance of experiencing a fire significant enough to call 911. But what if when you had to make that call, no one answered?

In small communities across the nation, like Perkasie, the firefighters respond to emergency calls for fires, automobile accidents, natural disasters, and medical emergencies as your friends and neighbors — unpaid volunteers stepping up to help at the most important time.

After six years on Perkasie Borough Council, I’m stepping down from elected office and joining the fire department because I believe in the type of public service our community — and our country — needs now more than ever.

The number of volunteer firefighters across the nation has been declining for decades. In the 1970s, there were about 300,000 volunteer firefighters throughout Pennsylvania, but today that number has fallen to about 38,000. This deterioration is jarring seeing the need for this service has not subsided, but especially considering the growth in communities like Perkasie. Simply put, volunteers and departments are being stretched thinner and thinner.

To keep direct costs to taxpayers to a minimum (Perkasie residents voted to authorize a 0.5 mil “fire tax” to support the purchase and maintenance of firefighting apparatuses), volunteer departments place a heavy emphasis on fundraising. So much so that former Pennsylvania State Fire Commissioner Bruce Trego estimates that fundraising now takes up to 60 percent of a volunteer firefighter’s time. These funds simply attempt to keep up with equipment replacement, training costs and general maintenance.

Taxpayers in other volunteer-served communities are blessed to have a volunteer fire service. The National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC) estimates that time donated by volunteer firefighters saves localities an estimated $139.8 billion per year.

The implication for small municipalities if volunteer service turned to paid would be devastating to current budgets and tax rates.

Needless to say, there is an obvious need for the continued success of volunteer fire companies from an emergency services and cost-of-living standpoint, but these challenges must be addressed through community action.

To be sure, an effective local government is vital to the success of a community, as are informed and engaged residents. Perkasie is blessed with both and I know I leave the council in good hands, which made the decision easier.

But as the traditional ties that have bound communities for generations — churches, service organizations, social clubs, and yes, fire companies — struggle to attract and retain members, and ultimately perform the service they were established to do, I see a difficult future in even the closest communities.

While all of these organizations play a critical role, I believe in the power of community commitment exemplified in running into the burning home of a neighbor you don’t know for no other reason than it is the right thing to do.

Fire companies offer exceptional opportunities to get involved — from the front lines to fundraising. Please, join me in considering how you can give back to your community and your neighbors of every stripe.

Aaron Clark represented Ward 2 on Perkasie Borough Council from 2016-2023. He is a member of Perkasie Fire Company, which covers Perkasie and East Rockhill. More information at

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