“I never thought I’d have to do that,” Hayes says at he looks at a help wanted sign he’s posted in front of the Georgetown fire station.
Hayes’ department has just 19 volunteer firefighters to cover a 50-mile radius. He says sometimes it's a stretch just to find a full team.
“Anytime you have to send out two or three pages to fill a truck, that's a problem,” Hayes says. “We're just hurting for people.”
And his department isn't the only one.
“The numbers are definitely down, we've had as many as 35 members on the department and we're currently at 23 members,” says Catlin fire chief Tom McCoy.
Catlin firefighters say between the training and the overall time commitment it's getting harder and harder to find people dedicated to keeping you safe.
“I had to respond to a medical call by myself, there was no other personnel available,” says volunteer firefighter Paul Sudlow.
The Illinois and Indiana Firefighters Association says it's the same story in all their volunteer departments. So Edgar, Vermilion, Champaign and Iroquois counties are teaming up to recruit. They're spreading the word through public service announcements, and any other way they can.
“We’ll be going door to door with flyers,” McCoy says.
It's an idea that drew in Sudlow a few years ago. Now he and others are hoping it works again.
“We need a few good men or women,” Hayes says.
Some departments offer incentives for their volunteers. Some pay per call. Some pay per training hour, but the smaller ones say between higher power prices and spending nearly $250 in gas to fill up one truck, there’s not a lot of cash to spare, so they're hoping someone will step up.
“Any of us having an emergency would hope someone would be at our doorstep in four to six minutes. When we are very shorthanded that doesn't always mean I can provide that. So we need community to step forward and help us out,” McCoy says.
If you'd like to help you can contact the Illinois & Indiana Firefighters Association at 217-427-5584 or email email@example.com.