DAUPHIN COUNTY, Pa. (WHTM) — Dauphin County commissioners approved a tax credit for volunteer emergency first responders on Wednesday.

Dauphin County Commissioner Mike Pries says this is a way to say thank you to the people who volunteer their time protecting the community. Cumberland County did this last year, and Dauphin County wanted to do the same.

Pries says volunteer first responders are the most valuable asset in the community. Last year, there were 312,000 emergency dispatches in Dauphin County — 50,000 for EMS and 12,000 for fire. Pries says volunteer firefighters and EMS make up 20% of those emergency dispatches.

First responders say anything helps. “Just acknowledging their volunteerism and acknowledging their commitment to service is huge,” said Halifax Fire Department Chief Tim Neiter.

Pries says this could also encourage more people to become volunteer first responders.

“The crime, the car accidents, the fires, the hazards at home — they’re not dwindling at all. So the numbers keep increasing, but the numbers of volunteers out there are decreasing, so this is one small way to say thank you to the volunteers for the great work they have done, are doing, and will continue to do for members of their community,” Pries said.

Marvin Reist is the fire chief of Rescue Fire Company in Susquehanna Township and has been a volunteer for 25 years.

“The volunteer services in general have taken a decline in the amount of volunteers that show up every year, so anything we can do to help increase the number of volunteers throughout the county, throughout the state, and throughout the nation is very welcomed,” Reist said.

The tax credit is $250 off county real estate tax.

Commissioners will give a check to each individual fire and EMS department, and then those departments will distribute the checks once they determine who qualifies. Members have to live in Dauphin County and be volunteers.

The county says commissioners budgeted for this. The tax credit will happen every year.