This opinion represents the views of the Office of the State Comptroller at the time it was rendered. The opinion may no longer represent those views if, among other things, there have been subsequent court cases or statutory amendments that bear on the issues discussed in the opinion.
FIRE COMPANY -- Membership (right to be member of more than one company)
VOLUNTEER FIREFIGHTERS -- Eligibility (membership in more than one company)
NOT-FOR-PROFIT CORPORATION LAW, §1402(c)(3); TOWN LAW, §176-b(10); VILLAGE LAW, §10-1006(10): A volunteer firefighter may not simultaneously be a member of two fire companies, regardless of whether the companies are part of the same fire department or different fire departments.
You ask whether the statutory prohibitions against membership in more than one fire company apply only to membership in fire companies within the same fire department. In particular, you ask whether an individual may be simultaneously a member of a volunteer fire company within a village fire department and a volunteer fire company within a fire department of a fire district located in an adjoining town.
Village Law, §10-1006 and Town Law, §176-b contain provisions relating to the qualifications and appointment of volunteer members of, respectively, village and fire district fire companies. Both the Village Law (§10-1006) and the Town Law (§176-b) provide that "[a] person shall not be eligible to volunteer membership in more than one fire company at one time". Further, Not-For-Profit Corporation Law, §1402(c)(3), which relates to the appointment of firefighters in fire corporations, similarly provides that "[a] person shall not be eligible to volunteer membership in any other fire corporation or fire company at one time" (emphasis added).
It is a general rule of statutory construction that the intention of the Legislature is first sought from a literal reading of the statute itself, giving the language its natural and obvious meaning (McKinney's Statutes, §92). The literal meaning must yield, however, when necessary to give effect to the intention of the Legislature (McKinney's Statutes, §111).
The above quoted statutes, read literally, prohibit multiple memberships in fire companies, without distinguishing between companies within the same fire department and those within different departments (see, e.g., 1969 Opns St Comp No. 69-55, unreported; 1975 Atty Gen [Inf Opns] 129). Moreover, we find nothing in the legislative history of these provisions which suggests that the prohibitions were intended to relate only to multiple memberships in companies within the same department.
Accordingly, it is our opinion that a volunteer firefighter may not be simultaneously a member of two fire companies, regardless of whether the companies are part of the same fire department or different fire departments.
June 26, 1991
George F. Calvi, Village Manager
Village of Ardsley