HAYS COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) – The South Hays Fire Department is the last completely volunteer station in Hays County. But this year, that will change.

It’s something former Deputy Chief Dan Kramer said impacted the department’s response.

“We were missing calls, because we weren’t staffed. We were inadequately staffed, I would say the majority of the time. And we had stations that were left totally unmanned,” Kramer said.

He said this isn’t unique to South Hays but is happening nationally. Kramer said there’s been a decline in volunteer fire service because it’s become harder to recruit and retain unpaid positions.

“Right now people can’t afford things. They have families to support. They have themselves to support and a lot of them would rather go do that.”

That’s why he spent months pushing for firefighters to get paid. Kramer said he hoped it would increase staffing and improve their call response.

“The reality is, is that you’re paying for the service now anyway,” Kramer said. “But if you’re paying for the service, and you’re not getting the service, then you’re just paying for what?”

While there’s no word yet on exactly when the department will make the transition this year, Kramer said he’s just relieved it’s finally happening.

“That’s what the citizens pay their taxes for. They expect fire protection,” Kramer said.

Kramer said getting more firefighters on staff could help the department respond to more of its calls. Back in August, numbers showed about 40% of the calls overlapped which forced other departments to respond instead.