About the Office of the State Fire Commissioner
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 Pennsylvania Office of the State Fire Commissioner (OSFC) 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 (PEMA).
The current OSFC was created by legislation as its own agency under the direct jurisdiction of the governor by Act 91 of 2020.
Under the Fire Commissioner Act, 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 and confirmed by the State Senate, oversees the development and operation of Pennsylvania’s emergency service training program, the Fire and Emergency Medical Services Loan Program (FEMSLP) 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
- Community safety education
- Administers the Relief Association Program
Mission and Goal
OSFC oversees the operation of the Pennsylvania State Fire Academy in Lewistown (Mifflin County). This facility provides comprehensive resident and weekend programs for:
- Rescue personnel
- Arson investigators
- Hazardous materials teams
- 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.
The goal of OSFC 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.