TRENTON — The General Assembly has approved a joint resolution sponsored by Senator Steven Oroho that seeks to protect property taxpayers by reversing a trend of fewer people joining volunteer fire departments and first aid and rescue squads.“There is growing concern across the state that volunteer first responder organizations are unable to retain and recruit new members,” Oroho said. “When fewer people volunteer, towns are forced to hire paid personnel at property taxpayer expense. It’s critical that we identify ways to maintain critical public safety services in our communities without increasing costs to taxpayers.”The resolution, establishes a “Special Task Force on Volunteer Retention and Recruitment” to study and recommend strategizes, incentives, and policies for the retention and recruitment of the State’s volunteer first responders.According to the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA), nearly 70 percent of all firefighters in the nation are volunteers.Data from the National Fire Protection Association shows a decline in the number of volunteer firefighters since the early 1980s, along with a more than 50 percent increase in the number of paid firefighters.“We’re looking to find solutions that will help fire departments and other volunteer first responder organizations to increase their membership,” Oroho said. “Emergency services are demanding for those participating, due to training and time commitment. It is essential to learn how to inspire residents to become active in their local volunteer fire and EMT programs. Increasing volunteerism will protect our communities and our taxpayers.”The joint resolution has passed both the Senate and General Assembly. It now goes to the Governor for approval.