(WKBN) – On Thursday, Governor Mike DeWine announced a task force to help combat the decline in staff at volunteer fire departments throughout Ohio. Departments here in Mahoning County are no different.

Several volunteers with the Green Township Fire Department responded to a smoky scene Friday afternoon on Knopp Road. They said a controlled burn reignited, then spread to several hay bales. It was a time-consuming endeavor to put out.

Most of those volunteers got paid $11 an hour to respond to the scene and had to leave other jobs or their families to do so.

“Today, there’s about eight of us and we had to call Beaver Township for help. So we had more people to help accomplish putting the fire out,” said Green Township Fire Chief Todd Baird.

Baird said in 1989, they had 50 firefighters. Today, that number is just around 30.

They’re already on track to respond to 47 more calls than last year.

But this is not just in Green Township. The Western Reserve Joint Fire District is experiencing a steady increase of EMS calls, despite declining staff.

“We have an aging population which makes more demands on us for our calls. At the same time, we have less younger people to recruit,” said Western Reserve Joint Fire District Chief Chip Comstock.

He said young people have to work more hours at other part-time jobs to make ends meet, giving them less time to volunteer. He said his department is considering hiring part-time staff on a shift rotation to have more firefighters available.

The national standard is to have 18-20 firefighters at a house fire, but with fewer fighters available, it makes it more difficult to get the required staff on scene.

“We do get 18 firefighters on average in Poland but last week I only had 12. So we had to rely on our neighbors to help provide the additional numbers,” Comstock said.

Comstock hopes DeWine’s task force will make recommendations on incentives to help get and keep volunteer firefighters, like tax breaks.

“This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. Legislators see it,” DeWine said.