In the late 1930s, a group of fire chiefs, led primarily by Howard Schaefer of Marietta and Joe Whitley of Atlanta, began an effort to start a pension fund for the firemen of Georgia. They approached the Georgia Firemen’s Association at their annual convention and garnered their support for the initial legislation. The first draft of the Fireman’s Relief Act introduced in 1939 failed as did many versions thereafter. But each successive bill brought a better benefit, improving and refining the plan, until in 1954, a bill was put forth that passed both houses, and in 1955, was signed into law by Governor Marvin Griffin.
The success of this effort was in no small part due to the support of the Firemen’s Association, which in 1952 formalized its organization and lobbying efforts by incorporating. Initially, the Association was charged with responsibility for oversight of the pension fund and held the Trustee positions until the statutes were revised to provide for at-large appointments by the Governor.
Knowing that they would be seeking and needing some form of public funding to have a meaningful benefit over the long term, the originators of the pension fund, the fire chiefs and the legislators, had the foresight to prescribe that the fund should be open to all firefighters in the State of Georgia, paid and volunteer.
Early on, the General Assembly also wanted to encourage departments to upgrade and improve their firefighting proficiency. Thus, for membership, an applicant had only to be affiliated with a Fire Department in a Class 1 through 8 ISO-rated fire district in the State of Georgia. In 1997, the Fund was renamed the Georgia Firefighters’ Pension Fund.
On July 1, 2000, the Georgia Class Nine Fire Department Pension Fund was created by an Act of the Georgia General Assembly. This Pension Fund was established to pay retirement benefits to paid and volunteer firefighters affiliated with Fire Departments in Class 9 ISO-rated fire districts.
On July 1, 2006, the Georgia Class Nine Fire Department Fund was merged with the Georgia Firefighters’ Pension Fund. This created a single fund with equal and uniform benefits available to qualified and participating firefighters serving in Fire Departments in Class 1-9 ISO-rated Fire Districts.
When the “Firemen’s Pension Fund” opened for business in July of 1955, dues were $5.00 per month. The monthly benefit was $50.00. Retirement was based on years of “fire service”, rather than “pension creditable service”, but one had to participate in the pension fund for at least one year. There were no “add on’s” for extended service or provisions for early retirement or survivor beneficiaries. On July 1, 1956, 25 members with 12 months in the pension fund retired and began receiving a pension of $50.00 a month.
Today, more than fifty years later, dues are only $25.00 a month and full benefits are $977.00 per month. Retirement is based on “pension creditable service”, and we offer early retirement, extended service benefits, cost of living allowances (COLA) and survivor benefits. Over the years this has become one of the premier supplemental benefit plans for firefighters in the United States.