Reporter: Rachel Schaerr | Videographer: Daniel Heffner
Amherst Co., VA - Everyday, they leave their families to put their lives on the line. Volunteer firefighters are easy to take for granted, and one volunteer fire chief says they're becoming a dying breed.
Chief Ernie Cash says they've spent the last several months beefing up recruitment efforts, offering incentives and asking the public to sign up.
"People that you may not have known yesterday, you put your life in their hands today," Cash said from the Monelison Volunteer Fire Department where he's volunteered for the last 40 years.
"I love what I do and I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world," he said.
But the Monelison Fire Department is one of several across the Commonwealth, looking for more members to join the family. Cash says it's not as demanding for his firefighters when there are more people helping out with the job.
Edna Brightwell no longer takes volunteer firefighters for granted.
"I come back and I heard all this rolling," Brightwell said pointing to her chimney.
A few weeks ago, volunteers helped her husband escape the flames.
"I really appreciate them and I think they do a great job," she added.
Next to her letter of gratitude there are reminders of the dangers they face every day.
"At the time of his death he was the chaplain of the department," Cash says pointing to a plaque of former volunteer firefighter Aaron Coppadge. He died fighting a structure fire.
But people like Kevin Ervin continue putting their lives at risk. They consider it a calling and hope more volunteers will do the same.
"We might pick on one another, but you don't mess with us. I'll do anything for any of them and they'll do the same," Ervin said.
"We're all in it for the same reasons -- we're here to help people. We're here to provide a service for the citizens and that's what we're here to do," Cash explained.
There are incentives to volunteering with a fire department. Many offer a retirement program, life insurance, workman's comp, and even a few tax breaks.