Decades ago, when Larry Obert and Shirley Lafferty began volunteering at the Union City Volunteer Fire Department, the entire town turned out to extinguish a blaze.
Now, a handful of people show up. 
"They would fight to get on the truck. Now, we leave the bay without enough members on the truck," Lafferty said. 
That decrease in manpower delays response times because volunteers have to be called in from surrounding departments further out in the county.
"We should have 10, 12, 14 people at a house fire," Obert said. "Instead of having them there in 5 to 7 minutes, it's maybe 20 minutes. And the fire doesn't seem to want to wait. Once it starts, it's kind of like a racehorse going out of the gate. It's our job to stop it, not for it to stop and wait for us."
Finding EMT is even harder, so several years ago, the department started paying staff to cover the region during the day on week days. 
It costs the department thousands of dollars, but even with a paid position, finding help isn't easy.
"It's very difficult to offer somebody $13-$16 an hour with no benefits to work 9 1/2 hours a day when they can go and flip burgers for the same amount of money," Obert said. 
Undermanned and underfunded, departments are running out of options.
Already, they lose money on many ambulance calls, and paying their staff just widens that budget shortfall.
"We spent more time trying to raise money than we do fighting fires," Lafferty said.
Obert says it's a simple financial equation, and his department can't afford to keep losing money from ambulance calls.
They're begging state and local governments to help out -- because without more money, volunteer departments might not be around much longer.
"We really are saving the community money, but we need their support, and we need that in the form of dollars," he said. "We can do it a lot cheaper than a professional service that is being brought in. But if we don't get that support, we probably will be out of the EMS service."
It costs Union City about $250 to take a person to a hospital in Erie.
Medicaid reimburses just $160 dollars.
If a patient refuses to go to the hospital, insurance pays nothing, even though the department had to send staff and equipment.
Obert says without more help, Union City Fire Department might not be able to offer an ambulance service beyond this year, and at that point, taxpayers may be on the hook to cover a paid service.