STANFORD — The Stanford Fire Department is in need a few more people who can stand the heat.
Acting Chief Robin Jones said the city currently has a roster of about 15 firefighters, which is about a dozen less than where he'd like it to be.
Jones said the low numbers haven't yet affected the department's ability to respond to any fires, but he's concerned about the number of people he sees leaving the area in the bad economy.
"We've had a lot of firefighters move away to new jobs," he said. "We have enough people to do the job. It's just you feel more secure when you have a full roster of firefighters."
As part of the department's efforts to recruit new firefighters, state volunteer recruitment coordinator Pat Thompson visited the Lincoln County Fair Thursday and Friday nights with a special trailer exhibit from the Kentucky Fire Commission.
Thompson said Stanford isn't the only place seeing a shortage of firefighters — it's a statewide and nationwide problem.
About a decade ago, there were an estimated 19,000 volunteer firefighters in Kentucky. Thompson said that number is now just above 17,000 and has dipped even lower at times.
Volunteers make up more than 90 percent of Kentucky's fire departments and a similar percentage of firefighters nationwide, making them "the backbone of America," Thompson said.
One reason for the drop-off is that families are getting more and more involved in more and more activities with their children, Thompson said.
"They don't have time for anything else," he said.
Thompson said there's also been a drop-off in the number of farmers who have time to volunteer as firefighters. Farmers used to make up a large percentage of volunteer firefighters, but now "they have diversified, as we all have," and they don't have as much time, he said.
Thompson said Stanford's Fire Department is able to offer reimbursements to its firefighters for responding to fires and attending training — something many other departments around the state might not be able to afford.
In order to volunteer as a firefighter, Thompson said all you really need is to be 18 or older, have physical ability and time to give.
Anyone interested in becoming a Stanford volunteer firefighter can call the fire department at (606) 365-4501.