AVAWAM, Ky. (WYMT) - State and local fire officials report a decline in the number of people registering to become volunteer firefighters.
They say volunteers often form the backbone of fire and emergency services, especially in rural areas.
Leonard Toler, the chief of Avawam Volunteer Fire Department in Perry County, says it is hard to say why fewer people are signing up to be firefighters.
"When I first started, it wasn't nothing for a department to have 30 or 40 members on it or even more, but over the years it's just slowly dwindled off," he said.
In communities across Eastern Kentucky, Toler says fire departments are having to do more with less.
"It kind of runs you down a little bit," he said.
For anyone who has ever thought about answering the call to serve their community, but didn't know where to start, there now exists a hotline with the Kentucky Fire Commission.
Part of a nationwide recruiting program, officials say 1-800-FIRELINE is a one-stop-shop for potential volunteers in Kentucky.
"It's one easy way for people out there to find a place where they can volunteer where they're from," said Jacob Warren, Volunteer Firefighter Recruitment and Retention Program Coordinator for the Kentucky Fire Commission.
"They say we're a rare breed. You do something and you don't get paid for it," Toler said.
Toler says volunteer firefighting is not for everyone, but for those who choose to serve, the job offers its own rewards.
He encourages anyone interested to give it a shot.