Volunteer fire departments across the Big Country are seeing fewer volunteers each year -- a trend consistent with what volunteer fire departments in other areas of the U.S. are experiencing.
Elm Creek Citizens Association Fire Chief Jimmy Hall said many people do not realize how many departments rely solely on volunteers not only to fight fires but to also help with medical calls and administrative tasks.
He said fire departments typically see an increase in calls during the first part of the year and that increase could be devastating without a solid number of volunteers.
"I don't know all the answers of why that's happening, but I know with the volunteer fire departments we are are seeing a decrease in the amount of people that are willing to help," Hall said.
Hall said his department is one of many that is struggling to find reliable volunteers.
"It's really hard to have an emergency operation with less than six people and right now we're having -- we're struggling -- to get three or four people per call."
Hall said volunteering is a tough job because of the long, unpredictable schedules but that it is a necessary commitment nonetheless.
"I understand that and I sympathize with that but It really comes down to, if somebody doesn't respond to these calls and if somebody doesn't help, then nobody's going to do it," Hall said. "When somebody's life or somebody's property is in danger, I personally would feel guilty for not stepping up and taking on that task so we hope we can get some people who are willing to do that."
To learn more about volunteering and for a directory of local fire departments, visit the Big Country Firefighter's Association website.