The Pennsylvania State Fire Commissioner’s Office had its beginning in 1976 with Governor Milton Shapp’s appointment of the state’s first fire commissioner.
In 1981 Governor Richard Thornburgh reorganized the then-separate Fire Commissioner’s Office, State Fire School and Volunteer Loan Assistance Program as the Office of
Fire Safety Services under the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency. The current Office of the State Fire Commissioner was created, by legislation, within PEMA in 1995 when Governor
Tom Ridge signed Act 61 of 1995, The Fire Commissioner Act.
Under this legislation the Pennsylvania State Fire Commissioner is the official charged with meeting the diverse training, operational, and informational needs of the Commonwealth’s
fire and emergency service community. The Commissioner, who is appointed by the Governor, oversees the development and operation of Pennsylvania’s emergency service training program,
the Volunteer Loan Assistance Program (VLAP) that provides low-interest loans to volunteer fire and emergency services organizations, and the state’s fire safety education program.
In addition, the Commissioner is responsible for the development of a comprehensive fire incident reporting system.
Central to the Commissioner’s duties is the cultivation of a close working relationship with Pennsylvania’s 2,400 fire departments and their personnel. The Commissioner and his staff
function as support and resource personnel for these agencies in dealing with issues such as volunteer recruitment and retention, firefighter safety, intervention programs dealing with
juvenile fire-setters, and community safety education.
The Office of the State Fire Commissioner oversees the operation of the Pennsylvania State Fire Academy
, Lewistown (Mifflin County). This facility provides comprehensive resident and
weekend programs for firefighters, rescue personnel, arson investigators, hazardous materials teams, and other emergency responders.
The office is also the principle point-of-contact in coordinating cooperative training programs at the local and regional levels using a unique partnership involving the Commonwealth’s
community colleges and some county governments. Pennsylvania provides a pioneering system of local-level emergency service training that is demand-responsive and deliverable at the fire
station level across the state.
Pennsylvania is the birthplace of the volunteer fire service in North America. The Commonwealth has the largest number of fire departments in the nation, and is a national leader in the
number of career and paid personnel providing emergency services.
The goal of the State Fire Commissioner’s Office is to develop a robust, customer-focused support system for these agencies that includes superior training, innovation in both policy
and finance, aggressive community education, and free and technological-sound flows of information. Specific objectives support and clearly define this broad goal.