Student firefighter saves lives in free time


Payton Preo

Senior Anthony James stands by Summit Volunteer Fire Department’s pump truck, Oct. 24. James devotes his free time to the Volunteer Fire Department.

By Payton Preo, Reporter

While many students choose to play sports or hang out with friends after school, Senior Anthony James chooses to risk his life firefighting.

“It’s a lot of responsibility. You get a call at one in the morning about a structure fire, like a house fire, and you just gotta get up and go,” James said.

James fights fires with the Summit Volunteer Fire Department with his father in Foxboro, a small town in Douglas County. James is 17, and while usually someone would need to be 18 to be a part of a department, James is allowed as a volunteer firefighter.

“With the stuff we’re doing, it truly is life or death. If you’re not doing your CPR right, they’re not going to make it. If you go into a fire and you don’t have your mask on properly, you’re not going to make it. So you have to learn to listen and trust very hard here,” Anthony’s father Andrew James, another firefighter at Summit, said. “That will teach him for a long time in regards to his career.” 

Andrew has been fighting fires since 1992. He believes it’s a great way to give back to his community, and he’s happy his son is doing the same.

“He’s always been pretty ambitious. We’re an ambitious family. For 10 years we owned Bayfront Carriages down in Canal Park. We had big draft horses and carriages down there and gave rides, and Anthony was working at that at the age of seven,” Andrew said.

Firefighters are typically required to pass an eight task physical test, including a 75 pound weighted stair climb and a hose drag. And according to both younger and elder James, the mental component to being a firefighter is just as important as physical ability.

“Firefighters deal with a lot of stuff. But before, we used to be always told that you just ‘bottle it up, deal with it, move on.’ We are teaching our young firefighters, and our old firefighters the same, that you have to speak. You have to talk about what you see. With our fire department, we go to emergency medicals and car accidents. You see a lot of gruesome stuff that you have to learn to deal with,” Andrew said.

After a boot camp in June, Anthony will be deployed to a firefighting medical unit in the US Marines. He said that once he returns, 13 weeks after deployment, he will continue firefighting. He has currently finished a two week training for the Navy Cadets.

In addition to firefighting and the military, Anthony also spends his time serving food to the residents of New Perspective Senior Living. He is currently taking a course to become a certified nursing assistant for his senior project as well.

“He’s a busy, hands-on kind of guy. He’s interested in a lot of shop classes and stuff like that,” teacher Anne Gronski said.

Although his homework can suffer due to this extracurricular, his parents approve of what he’s doing, both in saving lives and forging his own path.

“I like the fact that he wants to do something that’s not just going straight to college, and saying ‘this is what I’m going to do for the next four to six years,’” Andrew said. “There’s so many different areas we can go in.”