Colona Fire Department struggle to keep volunteer numbers up

“When the fire call goes out the question is who is going to show up?” said Colona Fire Chief, John Swan.

COLONA, Illinois-- The dwindling number of local volunteer firefighters is raising concerns about safety.

"When the fire call goes out the question is who is going to show up?" said Colona Fire Chief, John Swan.

According to Chief Swan they're struggling with recruitment and retention. Colona Fire Department currently has about about 30 volunteer firefighters on staff.

"We're having a real big problem in the smaller communities," said Swan.

During the day volunteers are scarce with only 3-5 volunteers to answer fire calls but even those numbers can fall.

"Initially it might be just 1 or 2 firefighters rolling out in the daytime cause of being so short staffed," said Swan.

Chief Swan says they're focused on raising awareness among the community because it's only a matter of time before someone gets hurt.

"It causes undue stress and increases the chance of loss of life or injuries due to the fact that we don't have enough help so it's very important the manning issue on a fire scene, it can make a difference between life and death," said Swan.

According to Swan the shortage is hitting not just locally but at the state and national level.

In Illinois, there are about 42,000 firefighters and more than half of them are volunteers.