KINCAID (AP) – Three recent South Fork High School graduates have answered more than just a school bell.
A radio call from the Midland Fire Protection District can mean a late night for fire cadets Tyler Murphy, Nick Smith and Ozzy Tryon.
Amidst the typical teenage regimen of homework, classes and school activities, the three teens volunteer for their local fire department. They add much-needed extra hands to the volunteer department and work side by side with the fully certified firefighters during their community’s fire and medical calls.
“As soon as you hear that beep go off, your heart starts pounding with ‘What’s it going to say, what’s it going to say,’” Tryon said. “You go on calls, and a lot of these older people can’t help themselves. It feels good to help them.”
The cadets might not enter a burning structure, but they often work at emergency sites, carrying tools and manning hoses.
“I know that I’ve been in a situation where I’ve needed help before, and knowing that I can be there for other people when they need help is a great responsibility,” Smith said.
Assistant Fire Chief Aaron Tucker said the volunteer department of 28 firefighters answers more than 300 emergency calls per year. Having a steady flow of high school students willing to serve is essential to keeping the department going.
“With a small community and with a volunteer service, that’s a whole lot of calls,” Tucker said. “These guys take the load off.”
Easing that load meant sleepy eyes in the classroom the next day. They all answered calls on school nights and stayed out well past 2 a.m.
Still, Murphy said volunteering in the small Christian County community is important to him. The people he sees at the gas station or the grocery store are the same people he answers those late-night calls to help.
Principal Chris Clark said the firefighting program has helped the three cadets mature. That responsibility has filtered into their post-graduation plans, too.
Smith plans to attend Lincoln Land Community College and then transfer to a larger school. Tyron and Murphy both plan to enter the Air National Guard and then pursue careers in law enforcement.
“This year has really made a big difference in the type of people that they are,” Clark said. “They’re not just high school kids that are going through the motions. They are leaders.”
Clark treasured their sense of leadership within their school. The three seniors have already passed on the fire cadet legacy, with next year’s incoming senior class already having two cadets. Clark expects more will follow in the incoming junior class.
“The responsibilities that they learn – not just here at school, but outside of it – has helped them become leaders within the community,” Clark said. “They’re setting the bar for everyone else that’s going to follow them.”