Editor's note: There are dozens of newspapers across the state of Kentucky. Each Tuesday, this space will be dedicated to what one of those papers thinks about the issues facing their communities and this state.

Are volunteer fire departments an endangered species?

According to firedepartment.net, there are 890 fire stations or departments in Kentucky. While we don't have an exact count on how many of those are of the volunteer variety, the National Fire Protection Association reports 85% of the nation's fire departments are comprised of all or mostly volunteers. Also according to the NFPA, 70% of America's firefighters are volunteers.

Volunteer fire departments are dealing with personnel shortages across the area, as outlined in a story in Monday's edition.

Local firefighters weighed in, pointing out a few factors that serve as obstacles for their particular departments.

A quick Google search will indicate that this severe shortage is a pressing issue across the nation. Those that do volunteer, as several northeastern Kentucky firefighters said, are aging.

How can our local communities' fire departments attract more help and, specifically, more assistance from younger bodies?

As Cannonsburg Fire Chief Richard Cyrus said, Cannonsburg's recruiting strategies consist of speaking to high school and community college students.

As Westwood's Brent Webster said, the message is a dire one. "I would tell them, help us protect your family."

Thanks to numerous distractions but also numerous responsibilities, it's challenging to make every waking hour worthwhile these days. What do young men and women want to do with extra time? It might be volunteering in some capacity, but it may also just be spending more time with family.

Volunteer firefighting is rewarding, but it's also demanding. It requires commitment. One-hundred percent commitment -- to anything -- is becoming harder and harder to find. ...

There are plenty of avenues to explore, but communities must keep working together to help save volunteer fire departments from descending the slope to extinction.

-- Daily Independent, Ashland

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