The state could be using a quarter-billion dollars to help volunteer and career firefighters buy equipment and pay for insurance but the money has been mostly sitting for decades, a state investigation found.

Every year, the New Jersey State Firemen’s Association and 538 separate Local Relief Associations receive about $30 million in funds from a 2 percent tax on fire insurance policies sold by out-of-state companies.

The funds are supposed to help needy fire companies, firefighters and their families, paying for things like burials, for example.

But the Office of the State Comptroller said most of the money is never spent because of “antiquated law.”

The associations were created in 1885.

In 2016, the Local Relief Associations spent $10 million of the $16 million doled out to them by the NJSFA. The money went mostly to conferences, administrative costs and salaries, the comptroller said.

The comptroller’s report, released Wednesday, says New York, Pennsylvannia and North Carolina use their funds to pay for training and education, equipment, physical exams and insurance.

“Volunteer fire departments in particular would benefit from this source,” Degnan said.

Comptroller Phillip Degnan says lawmakers should consider allowing the same in New Jersey. The Legislature last discussed updating the relief fund rules in 1994 but $90 million more has accumulated in the decades since.

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