For more than a century, communities around South Dakota have relied on firefighters and EMT's for immediate medical care. With more than 120 ambulance services in South Dakota, the State Department of Public Safety says 80% of them are volunteer-based.
But, a lot of small-town departments are struggling to find new volunteers as both numbers and interest levels are dwindling.
Humboldt, South Dakota, is a small city with a big heart where volunteers are vital to keep it running healthy and safely.
"It's become a lot harder to find the daytime help. We really struggle for daytime help," Long-time volunteer EMT Tom Kaffar said.
The Humboldt Fire Department has never seen times like these where it's difficult to get and keep volunteers.
"A lot of us are older now. It's hard to get the young people interested in it. There's so much more they're doing in life. Here in Humboldt, we don't have the business we used to. Young people leave home and go to a bigger city, they aren't here during the day anymore," Kaffar said.
With the amount of required training on the rise, so is the interest in more paid positions.
"We have such community support. They support our service so we hope that. It is kind of a scary thought that the volunteers aren't out there as much, they're going to paid jobs," Susan Shumaker said.
For people like Susan Shumaker and Tom Kaffar, they can only hope more young people will want to give back just as they have for nearly 25 years.
"Real good way to give back to the community. Everyone loves their hometown. It's really fulfilling. When you're a volunteer, they're your second family," Kaffar said.
"Although the numbers aren't as great, we do get some who get that sense of community and they'll take the class but more and more, they're going to paid positions is kind of being the trend. If we can at least keep where we have a handful of volunteers to keep the service alive," Shumaker said.
If you, or anyone you know, are interested in becoming a volunteer first responder, visit with your local fire chief or EMT head for more information. You can also contact the South Dakota Department of Public Safety at https://dps.sd.gov/