ST. LOUIS (KMOX) – Throughout southern Illinois there are “help wanted” signs at volunteer fire departments. The firefighter ranks are graying, and they are dwindling.

Dean Heidke is the chief of Worden Fire Department. He says the state has tried to help address the shortage, through grants.

“You can use all the money you want to promote, but in our small town, how do you promote that, because you know all the people around there you know who’s there, and people don’t have that desire,” he says.

Bethalto Fire Department captain Jeff French says his department has successfully used grant money to promote volunteerism as a “stepping stone” to a career in fire service.

“We will give you the training, we will give you the experience that you could take to become a career fireman, and it worked. It’s worked in the past and will continue to work. We have two or three that this year will leave us to become career firemen,” he says.

Both the Worden and Bethalto fire departments have also turned to Facebook as a way of seeking new firefighters to bolster their ranks.

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