TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTWO/WAWV) — Firefighters play crucial roles in responding to all types of emergency situations, with many of them being volunteers.

There are 17 volunteer fire departments in Vigo County according to the Indiana Volunteer Firefighting Association. Three of those departments being in the Otter Creek Township. According to Otter Creek Fire Department Public Information Officer Taylor Hardy, they respond to about 700 calls a year.

“The men and women who do this job give their time dedication and sometimes they sacrifice their family time to be here,” said Hardy. “We are the first responders of the township. We’re your neighbors. Your friends. Your family and when you call 911, we will show up.”

Gregg Lawson assistant chief of the Terre Haute Fire Department IPI division says area fire departments work closely together when needed.

“We do respond on mutual aide. We have a mutual agreement with surrounding volunteer fire departments,” said assistant chief Lawson. “It’s not often we have to do that but they definitely do reach out to us from time to time.”

In December, volunteer departments were called in to provide aide when businesses on 18th and Wabash Avenue caught fire.

“When we get taxed like that, we also reach out to the neighboring volunteer departments to help come in and backfill the city,” said assistant chief Lawson.

This past February, the Otter Creek Fire Department responded to three fires in one night with one being fatal.

“Our firefighters were fortunate to be on station. We had a very quick response time,” said Hardy. “Unfortunately the fire was too far advanced and we could not extinguish it or save the life inside.”

Hardy says the department’s firefighters work tirelessly to respond to every emergency call they and that volunteers are crucial to serving their community.

“Volunteers are important in not only this township or in the county but in the state and we are at a decline. We are seeing a decline in membership for volunteers,” said Hardy.

To help fill this void and help prepare the next generation of firefighters, Otter Creek is seeking to grow their junior firefighter program. Anyone interested in joining should contact Taylor Hardy at taylorhardy@OtterCreekFire.com.

Hardy says first responders whether paid or volunteers, all have the same goal. That is life safety and property conservation.