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Bill would allow paid firefighters to volunteer after retirement

Posted at 8:46 PM, Feb 22, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-23 11:16:45-05

COLLINSVILLE, Okla. -- A bill heads to the floor this week allowing paid firefighters to volunteer at local departments after they retire.

Josh Yanus volunteers with the Collinsville fire department. His interest sparked after surviving Hurricane Harvey in while living in Houston.

"We got about a foot and a half of water in our house and we were trapped," said Yanus.

Within 45 minutes, volunteer firefighters pulled him and his family out of their home. A few weeks later, Yanus and his family brought cookies and other treats to the volunteers to thank them.

"A captain who I spoke with at the time said the biggest gift you could give is giving your time like these guys do," said Yanus.

Josh Yanus is one of ten volunteers with Collinsville, but the department could use ten more.

"It’s difficult to recruit volunteer firefighters, it’s difficult to retain them after we get them," said Chief Harold Call, with the Collinsville fire department.

House bill 2051 could open doors for retired paid firefighters to volunteer at local departments, which fulfills a major need in smaller communities.

"They could really come back and help the community, and the community will appreciate them because they’re well trained," said Capt. Said Whitlock, who has volunteered at Collinsville fire department over 15 years.

Right now in Oklahoma paid firefighters who retire cannot volunteer after, but House Bill 2051 allows them to without risking their pension.

Representative Mike Sanders says 86 percent of fire service in Oklahoma is volunteer, so a larger pool departments can choose from could make a huge difference.

"All kinds of houses and businesses popping up everywhere so the call volume is extremely, way larger than it was 17 years ago," said Capt. Whitlock.

Anyone who's interested in volunteering at their local fire department has to be 18-years-old. After filling out an application, they go through training sessions that continue at least twice a month after they sign on to the department.

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