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IDAHO CITY -- There's a shortage of volunteer firefighters across the state of Idaho and many small communities are having to cope with the problem.

The Idaho Volunteer Fire and Emergency Services Association (IVFESA) are trying to help with a series of television ads and online promotions designed to highlight the state's need.

"The local firefighters are the first responders," said Kevin Courtney, IVFESA president.

For years, fewer people have been signing up to help respond to emergencies in rural Idaho towns and counties. Courtney told us it's a tough problem to fix.

He says the state needs 3,000 to 4,000 more people to fully staff volunteer fire departments. In the meantime, Idaho City is making do with what it has.

"It's kind of hard to make it all work, but we do it," said Idaho City Volunteer Fire Chief Terry Teeter, who's been working for the department for 36 years unpaid.

Idaho City has a population of 466 people, but there are only 10 volunteer firefighters Teeter can count on.

Courtney told us part of the problem is that many of these small communities don't have other paying jobs to keep younger recruits around.

"Not a lot of young people live in the small areas because there's not a lot of jobs," he said.

Meanwhile, small towns don't have the money to pay for emergency services.

"If all these counties, and these cities, and these small rural areas start paying full time firefighters, they'll go broke," said Courtney.

Many of the current volunteers work in the Treasure Valley, and travel north to fill fire shifts. It's a trend that's also affecting volunteer EMTs as well.

We checked into the numbers in east Boise County. Right now, there are 20 volunteer EMTs stationed in Idaho City, covering 320 square miles.

"That is way less than we need," said volunteer EMT Jeff Moebius.

He told us he needs 30 more people to help respond to all kinds of 911 calls. The station in Idaho City is staffed 24 hours a day.

"A lot of us just make that drive to come up here and provide for a community that needs EMS personnel," added Moebius.

The need is definitely there, so what can be done? State fire officials say that's a good question.

"If there was a simple answer then we wouldn't be here right now and there's not and that's the frustrating part," said Courtney.

To start, the Idaho Volunteer Fire & Emergency Services Association is flooding the airwaves, letting Idahoans know about the shortage and reminding people of the importance of the role. A role that these volunteers say is more of a calling.

"I love helping people," said Moebius.

However, even the people who love to help need help, too.

For more information about how to become a volunteer firefighter or EMT, visit the Idaho Volunteer Fire & Emergency Services Association's website.

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