If you live outside the city of Erie, you rely on a volunteer fire department. But those departments face uncertain futures, since only a quarter of those people donate to their local departments.

In just 10 years, the Kearsarge fire department has gone from wait-listing members to looking for new ones.

 “We were doubling lockers just for guys to get geared up. We also were on a waiting list when I joined. There were people waiting to get in because we were basically to capacity,” said firefighter Scott Robinson.

Now, the department needs members and money.

 Volunteer firefighters might not get paid, but it still isn’t cheap to run a department. Gear costs almost $5000 per firefighter, and trucks cost up to $1 million.

So volunteers have had to adapt, spending time and money asking the state for help.

“A considerable amount of our time is spent writing those grants and requesting money for vital equipment that we need to serve our community,” said Lieutenant Jamison Budacki.

Budacki says that’s not sustainable, but the problem does a solution.  He says the community needs to step up.

“Just because you’re a volunteer firefighter, that doesn’t mean you’re going to be running into a burning building. You can volunteer time in other ways. If you have a certain skill, running a business, we’re always looking for members to help us out with that too.”

In the meantime, volunteers will do what they’ve always done: put their lives on the line to keep us safe.