In the Line of Fire
While most 16-year-olds worry about their driver's test, Josh Carter was worrying about his next Firefighter I exam. Now 17 years old, Josh said he has never seen anything like the fires burning in Bradford and Northeast Alachua counties Wednesday.
"We did a house fire for training," Carter explained. "But that's pretty much it."
The Bradford High School junior said he would rather be helping to protect his community from the flames than at home wondering what is going on.
"There's a lot of people out here getting paid and there's a lot of people out here volunteering," Carter explained. "It's awesome to be out here."
According to his mother however, it is not so awesome for his family back at home. At their home on the Bradford and Alachua County Line, his mother said she's very proud, but she cannot help but worry as she waits for her son's return.
"I'm looking out and seeing the sky on fire and wondering what's going to happen to our house and then wondering where my son is at the same time," Jackie Carter recollected. "It was pretty frightening."
Holding Josh's picture and a plaque the Hampton Volunteer Fire Department awarded him for being the most improved firefighter of 2006, she said it helps to remind herself that firefighting is a "good fit" for Josh and it takes a "special person" to be a firefighter.
"Firefighters look out for each other, so I know everybody's got his back," she said. "They're going to watch over him just as he will his fellow firefighters."
One of his fellow firefighters is also Josh's best friend and neighbor. They joined the fire department together and because of their identical first names, they are known around the station house as "Team J.J."
"It helps out a lot to have somebody there with you, especially when you go through a hard time," Josh McDaniels said.
Team J.J. said they are both ready to go "pro." The teenagers have been excused from school to fight the fire, but as soon as they graduate, they would like to become full-time firefighters; and even after working 38 hours before getting his first break, Josh said he does not regret a minute.
"It's something that I wish a lot of people would go through to know what it's like and to see what these guys really go through everyday."
By Ted Latiak, WCJB TV20 News.
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