BERNALILLO, N.M. (KRQE) – A New Mexico fire department is hurting for help, but that same department is also finding some much needed assistance by inspiring a new generation of firefighters.

When they’re not out on a call, four teens from different backgrounds are soaking in what it means to be a Sandoval County firefighter.

“I want to become a paramedic,” Brandon Kaupa told KRQE News 13.

“My ultimate goal is to be a paramedic firefighter,” said Adilene Enriquez.

“My eventual goal is to be a firefighting paramedic doctor,” said Jennifer LaValle.

“This is what I want to do, I want to be a fireman,” added Ralf Olguin.

Aside from their goals, each of the four something else in common. They’re each 19 years old; the youngest people helping out the Sandoval County Fire Department.

“Having that young, energetic, enthusiastic mentality kind of brings that back to all the guys that have been around for a little bit,” explained Deputy Chief Eric Masterson.

The group is jumpstarting firefighting careers with the department’s residence program. The teens learn valuable firefighting skills while going to college and living at the fire station.

“We’ve definitely grown really close,” said Kaupa. “We took our Hazmat and wildland classes together.”

While the program helps pay tuition along with fire certifications, the group is also helping a department in desperate need.

“We’re very short on career staff, which is causing delays in getting to certain calls,” explained Masterson.

Sandoval County covers more than 3,700 square miles, much of which includes pueblo lands.

“Only 19 percent of Sandoval County is actually taxable land,” Masterson added. That means the county can’t afford to pay more staff.

A recent study shows the Sandoval County Fire Department has about a tenth of the firefighters as other departments in the region do. As a result, they rely heavily on volunteers.

“Our volunteer average age is in their 50s,” said Masterson.

With this program, Masterson hopes to inspire a new generation of firefighters.

“They’re definitely helping us out along the way,” said Olguin.

The four teens told KRQE News 13 the program has given them invaluable experience in choosing their careers. Three of them have already completed EMT basic and each teen will soon become full-fledged firefighters.

Olguin said he’s from Bernalillo, and would love to eventually work in his own community.

“It’d be definitely an amazing experience to be able to, once I’m able to have all my certifications, be able to serve my own community where I grew up,” said Olguin. “Because I know it so well and I’ve come to love it. It’s my home.”

The four agreed they want to make a difference their communities.

The Sandoval County Fire Department is always looking for more volunteers, but their residence program is currently full for now.

To put it in perspective, Sandoval County has four staffers at a fire station on a given shift. At some Albuquerque fire stations, there are more than 10 staffers on a shift.