Benefits for volunteer firefighters considered

Published 12:00 pm Sunday, February 26, 2023

The Mississippi Legislature is proposing a bill to set up a financial benefits program for volunteer firefighters in the state, potentially reaching the more than 100 volunteers that help protect the areas of Lafayette County outside the City of Oxford and the University.

House Bill 521 would establish the Mississippi Length of Service Award Program (LoSAP) which would create a new point system and allow specific incentive payments of $500 annually. ‘

The money accumulated after 20 years would be earning interest and be awarded in a single payment.

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Oxford firefighters and other full time employees in other cities and towns have benefit packages provided through the State of Mississippi, but volunteer first responders have not had those benefits.

Based on performances in training courses, drills, and other duties, a volunteer firefighter would essentially earn points in the system. The legislation calls for a series of tiers that would determine the level of support individuals firefighters would receive. 

Tier placement would depend not only on years as a volunteer firefighter, but also take into consideration the number of fire training courses and events volunteers have participated in over their years of service.

“Mississippi has needed a program like this to recruit and retain volunteer firefighters for many years,” Lafayette County Fire Chief Wes Anderson said. 

“Lafayette County is fortunate to have the University here, and we can have students involved as firefighters while they are here for school. Still, the state needs a program like this to retain and incentivize the men and women that call Lafayette County home. Many other states already do this, and hopefully, this incentive, if passed, will move the fire service in the state of Mississippi forward,” he said.

“We have 130 volunteers but the majority of these volunteers have been in the department for a long time, and we hope that a bill like this will allow us to recruit new and younger men and women that live in Lafayette County,” Lafayette County’s Public Information Officer Beau Moore said. 

The bill is currently in the appropriations and insurance committees.