MADISON COUNTY, Ala. (WHNT) – Madison County residents outside of Huntsville and Madison rely on 16 volunteer fire departments to respond to emergency calls. Leaders of those departments said they are desperate for more help.

The population of Madison County, not included in Huntsville and Madison city limits, has grown by over 20% in the last decade.

Rapid growth means there’s also a need for more first responders but Madison County volunteer fire departments said they are having trouble with recruiting people.

“We still get people within our community that have no idea we are volunteers, they think we stay at the station. That stations are manned 24/7 just like it is in the City of Huntsville, City of Madison,” says Heath Jones, the president of Toney Volunteer Fire and Rescue.

He says many people, especially those who are new to town, don’t realize that rural Madison County relies on volunteers to respond to emergencies like fires, wrecks and medical calls.

“Many times we only have one or two people to run calls during the day, we’re talking about 32 square miles of our fire district with two people. So it gets a little difficult and the number of calls we receive now at times, we are on calls and we receive another one where we’ve got to leave the first place and go to another. Or rely on our backup department,” says Jones.

Jones added people’s lives are busy these days and volunteering can take the bottom of the priority list, but they just need a little bit of people’s time.

“We provide all the training that you’ll need, all the Personal protective equipment and we send you to all of your training through the Alabama Fire College,”he said.

The Madison County’s volunteer fire departments offer all the training and gear you’ll need.

Payton Daily with Moores Mill says the time commitment can be whatever you want.

“If you can give me weekends, I’ll take the weekends. If you give me days during the week a few hours here or there, I’m perfectly okay with it. Whatever you can volunteer we are okay with that,” says Moores Mill Volunteer Fire Assistant Chief Payton Daily.

Daily started volunteering at 15-years-old and encourages young people to get involved.

“It got me in the door at HEMSI, we’ve had several people here start their careers with Huntsville Fire and still continue to volunteer so the opportunities are there if you want them,” says Daily.

If you’re interested in getting involved, here are links to volunteer departments across Madison County: