OLDHAM COUNTY, Ky. (WDRB) -- Local fire departments say they have a critical need for more volunteers to help them save lives.

There's a shortage of volunteer firefighters in our area, but it's also a problem most communities across America are managing.

"We certainly need more volunteers, that's for sure," Kevin Parker said. "Volunteer firefighters are in very high demand." 

Parker is the assistant chief of South Oldham Fire and has been a volunteer firefighter for 38 years. He says his department, along with others in Oldham County, are feeling the pinch.

"We almost can't put enough firefighters on the scene of a fire, and that's the bottom line." 

The National Fire Protection Association estimates 65 percent of America's firefighters are volunteers. But its most recent survey shows the lowest number of volunteer firefighters ever reported, signaling a startling trend.

Parker says despite the shortage, most local departments are making it work, and residents aren't in jeopardy.

"We are taking care of the community, but we can always do it way better," He said. "We always have to be recruiting and we always have to find new members." 

The federal government is working to help fire departments stay adequately staffed. A grant program will help departments across the country pay for recruitment and retention. Parker says those are two key components to get more people on the front line saving lives.

"Fires are fires," he said. "They're just as hot for a career firefighter as they are for a volunteer firefighter. We're all professional firefighters."

Parker says there is no up-front investment to become a volunteer firefighter and many departments do cost reimbursements for service. Anyone age 18 to 65 is a good candidate. Parker says departments have in-depth training programs to prepare volunteers. 

Anyone interested in learning more about becoming a volunteer firefighter can reach out to his or her local department. 

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