West Virginia Firefighters Face New Regulations

Local and state firefighters from West Virginia plan to attend a public hearing on proposed additional fire codes that would carry criminal penalties for noncompliance. These changes could shut down some struggling volunteer departments.

The West Virginia State Fire Commission has filed two Legislative Rules with the Secretary of State’s Office that will effect West Virginia Fire Service, both paid and volunteer departments. One relates to training and operations of volunteer fire departments and the other is the State Fire Code. The rules are out for public comment. This week’s public hearing is on the fire code changes.

According to state firefighting association officials, if enacted, any violation of the state fire code is a misdemeanor punishable by a $100 fine per infraction for each day of noncompliance.

The proposed new regulations will pose hardships on volunteer and paid fire departments. Firefighters, chiefs and board members could be held accountable facing civil and criminal penalties if they don’t comply. Volunteer fire departments provide coverage for about 80 percent of West Virginia.

According to state fire officials, the regulations require all firefighters to be Hazardous Materials Operations level at a minimum, while many West Virginia volunteer firefighters are currently just Awareness Level. All Operations Level personnel are to be supervised by a Technician.
The regulations would require all fire apparatus maintenance and inspections be performed by a person who is fully certified. State officials said there are few who have both certifications in the state.

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