Fireworks light up the night sky in a variety of colors, but area firefighters will especially appreciate the green during this fireworks season. A new state tax will enable revenue collected from fireworks sales to be used to support firefighters and provide for future state disaster relief efforts in our community when needed.
"The idea behind (House Bill 1099) is to use the tax money to create a state disaster relief fund and a fire academy," Clay County Emergency Management Director Bryan Husband said. "At this time, Indiana does not have a disaster relief fund like at the federal level, nor does it have a state training facility for firefighters, whether paid or volunteer."
The revenue from the tax set by H.B. 1099, which was signed into law by Gov. Mitch Daniels in March, will be paid directly to the Indiana Department of Revenue. It is expected to generate more than $2 million annually.
On June 1, fireworks retailers started to collect an additional 5 percent "public safety fee" on all fireworks sales in Indiana to comply with the new law.
The first $1 million collected by the fireworks tax will be used for the creation of a state disaster relief fund. Remaining revenue will be used to create firefighter training academies in each of the 10 districts throughout the state.
Having a new fire academy within driving distance excites Husband, who is also fire chief of the Lewis Township Volunteer Fire Department.
Clay County is located in District 7, which includes Greene, Parke, Putnam, Owen, Sullivan, Vermillion and Vigo counties.
Husband said a fire academy, placed in a centralized location among these eight counties, would encourage professional and volunteer firemen to participate in advanced specialized training courses.
"This is not a way to eliminate local training done by every department, but as a way to encourage advanced training in areas that smaller departments with limited budgets are presently unable to do," he said. "We all do constant training. But not everyone carries every piece of equipment needed to train for an area like HAZMAT, or has the funding for the books for officer and leadership training classes. This would not only allow for HAZMAT training, but it would be free."
Clay County will also benefit from the creation of a state disaster fund, according to Husband.
"Anything that overwhelms local resources to a point where our emergency response teams need help is considered a disaster," Husband said. "Remember the people caught in the flooding down around Clay City last year, just because an area floods or a tornado destroys an area with 10 homes in it, doesn't mean it qualifies for federal disaster dollars. This fund will be able to help people caught in these types of circumstances locally and throughout the state."