Fairfield, SC (WLTX) - For years paramedics in Fairfield County have quit because of pay. Emergency services just couldn't compete with the surrounding counties, but after a unanimous decision by county council they're able to change that.

"It's critical. It's a matter of life and death," Director Mike Tanner said.

In a medical emergency paramedics are the first to respond, but for years Tanner said the Fairfield County Emergency Services Department was understaffed and underpaid.

"We've gotten two percent in the last five years for the cost of living and it caught up to us when the contiguous counties around us were getting raises and we were left far behind," he said.

They were left ten to $15,000 behind, compared to Richland and Lexington counties.

"We lost nine full time paramedics within two months," he said.

But after a unanimous county council decision to increase wages, they are able to compete.

"Across the board everyone is excited," Dan Sloan said.

Sloan is a Paramedic Sergeant in Fairfield County, but he lives in Lexington County.

"I love the service and I love working here and I love the challenges here, so that's what kept me here," Sloan said.

He admitted that it was a struggle having a two-year-old daughter to provide for, but he's excited to give her and his wife more than he could before.

"She never went without, but now you can provide those little extra bonuses and extra things and maybe a little bit more here and there that you couldn't before."

And since veterans like Sloan stuck around, Tanner said they'll be able to train the novices.

"When we do bring in those new paramedics, we still have that core group that's here and that can train these new paramedics coming in," Tanner said.

And they'll be ready. This week they've hired three people and they've got eight spots left to fill.

Fairfield County Council also increased wages for sheriff's deputies and correctional officers.