Merkel fire chief Greg Cochran remembers just how popular being a fire fighter was when he joined more than two decades ago.
"We had 25 members that were active at that time at the department and even a waiting list to join," he said.
Now they're lucky to get 20 on the list.
"We average anywhere from 16 to 18," said Cochran.
The volunteer fire department depends on people like Cochran to give up their time and be willing to go out on a moments notice.
However fewer than half of what they had just a five years ago are willing to put in the time- they've gone from the average of 25 to just 15.
"A lot of people with the economy are probably trying to hold down two jobs and some of them may feel like they don't need to volunteer," said the chief.
It's happening all over the Big Country and all over the state.
The need is becoming a burden on the volunteers they are able to get- especially after last years tough fire season.
"The need was just astronomical with the heat we had and the humidity and the temperature and all that combined and the amount of volunteers it just taxed your volunteers out," said Cochran.
For now each of the neighboring rural departments make sure to help one another out to compensate for the shortages.
The full time telephone company employee knows its a sacrifice, but he says its his way of giving back.
"The gratitude in my heart to be able to help the community because i feel like i can that's the least I can do," he said.
He wants others to see the payoff from the service as well, especially now as the new fire season begins.
Said Cochran, "We've been sweating it a lot of times to have two or three."