WILLIMANTIC, Conn (WTNH) – Fire departments in Connecticut are being stretched thin right now. In many departments, staffing is down while the number of fires are going up. This is putting more pressure on recruiting the next generation.

It’s been a crisis in the making for years, but it’s worse than ever. Fewer firefighters around and fewer people wanting to pursue it as a career.

“GenX in the fire service is getting to the end of its lifespan. This is a young person’s career,” said Chief Marc Scrivener, President of the CT Career Fire Chiefs Association.

The downward trend in applicants is being seen across the public safety sector.

“It just seems there is a lack of motivation of individuals who want to work in public service, we are finding it fire, police, we are finding it all over,” said Chief Paul Januszewski, North Haven Fire Department.

CT fire departments including Willimantic are accepting applications until February 11. They are hoping to extend that deadline since there are only 80 applicants, about 10 percent what it was last year when they had over 750.

To boost interest, they’re introducing the field to kids younger.

“We find ourselves in the school, more than ever youth organizations more than ever,” said Januszewski.

Fire chiefs are facing the same recruiting dilemma as their veterans work more than ever to pick up the slack.

“More burden is on the remaining firefighters to pick up open overtime shifts, sometimes firefighters are working two to three overtime shifts a week,” Scrivener said.

With the way things are going, Scrivener is hoping those nearing retirement age serve a few more years. The average starting salary is $50,000, but it’s a job that was so much about the money you make and the hours you put it, but the call to protect your community.

“Once you get there, you are proud of what you achieved. It’s a sense of accomplishment. I think everyone in the fire service would agree that this is the best job in the world,” Scrivener said.