These Teens Serve on the Front Lines of Their Local Fire Department

In an unexpected turn of events, these teenagers went from math class to answering ambulance calls.

Teen Volunteer Fire Fighters sit in the back of an ambulanceAmy Feiereisel
EMTs Cooper Antonson, Reese Mono, and Sophia DeVito

When 16-year-old Grayden Brunet joined the Sackets Harbor, New York, volunteer fire department in 2017, he was the youngest on the squad by 20 years. He was so stoked to be following in his dad’s footsteps that he persuaded two classmates, Niklas Brazie and Dalton Hardison, to sign up too.

A few years later, the older firefighters quit en masse over COVID-19 concerns. Suddenly, the three teens were not only helping the Sackets Harbor volunteer fire department, they were the Sackets Harbor volunteer fire department. They were the ones responding to heart attacks, car accidents, and suicides. They were the ones speeding COVID-19 patients to hospitals.

“We went from not even having our licenses to saving people’s lives,” Hardison told CBS.

Teenage heroes

As far as the teens were concerned, they couldn’t quit. If they did, Brunet told North County Public Radio, “The community would lose the ambulance.”

The trio slogged on alone for a year until help arrived in the form of five more teens, all motivated to serve their neighbors in the town of 1,300. “When they call 911, they’re expecting someone to help them,” says Sophia DeVito, who was 16 when she joined.

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The job is taxing. One night last fall, the crew responded to two ambulance calls and a fire. They got home at 5:30 a.m., just two hours before school started.

“It’s definitely hard coming back from the calls and having to take an algebra test,” Grayden’s younger brother Gannon told WWNY.

But they don’t mind the grind. And the looks on the faces of 911 callers when they meet their rescuers? Priceless, says Cooper Antonson. “A lot of people ask, ‘Wait, how old are you?’”

Next, read up on this social worker who has created a line of inclusive dolls for all kinds of children.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest

Andy Simmons
Andy Simmons is a features editor at Reader's Digest.