STEPHEN, Minn. — Concerned that their numbers might dwindle over the next few years, volunteers for the Stephen Volunteer Ambulance Service say they hope people will step up to help them save lives.

"There just doesn't seem to be enough volunteers coming up," said Connie Troska, the ambulance service’s director. "I think the burnout rate is going to increase quickly because there are some of us that are on call almost all the time."

Stephen is a town of about 600 in Marshall County in the far northwest of Minnesota, and without the ambulance service, residents might have to wait longer for help. Troska said without volunteers, people experiencing medical emergencies might have to wait for an ambulance from Warren or Hallock, which can take at least half an hour.

Ambulance service volunteers met with community members Thursday night, July 18, hoping to generate some interest in volunteering.

Troska said it's crucial to keep the local service alive to keep costs down for patients.

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"This is going to affect their pocketbook because we just can't get who we need to serve on the ambulance any longer," Troska said.

The service is looking for an additional six to 10 volunteers. To become certified, volunteers must have 200 hours of training and pass a test.

Volunteers are paid a $3-an-hour on-call rate, matching other nearby counties.