SEA ISLE CITY — After a rash of devastating fires over the past year, including one that claimed the life of an 89-year-old woman, some city residents are calling for a career company to take over the local volunteer fire department.

But the city is standing behind its crew, arguing a career department isn’t necessary with mutual aid agreements already in place. The city is also reviewing its building codes and other ways to mitigate the disastrous effects of structure fires in the densely developed seaside resort.

The city is dealing with something many other South Jersey shore towns deal with — balancing the needs of the community while relying on a volunteer service that is becoming smaller each year.

“Departments nationwide are trying everything they can to recruit and retain volunteers, and it’s just a never-ending battle that isn’t getting won,” Cape May County Fire Marshal Connie Johnson said. “Here, our numbers have been declining, as far as going through the academy. Our last class was 18. Back in the day, 20 years ago, I can remember having three dozen in a class.”