Teen firefighter prepares for a career of service

by Kristin Kaipust

Senior Tanner Spencer’s only time off his job is during the school day. As a part time firefighter and volunteer EMT, Spencer works at the station every other day. He remains on call at other times.

“My first call was at one thirty in the morning,” Spencer said. “We got to the scene and he wasn’t responding. I started doing CPR on him. He passed away on the ambulance.”

Since then, Spencer has been called into many dangerous scenes.

“At first, the adrenaline rush is just go, go, go,” Spencer said. “People are trying to get their gear on, people are trying to get out of the station. But once we are in the trucks, everything calms down.”

Spencer works in Kennard, a small town about a half hour north of Millard.

“I am the youngest firefighter out of everyone in the whole county, so it’s a little bit different,” Spencer said. “When I got on, I knew it was something I wanted to do but I was going to have to push for it.”

To become a part of the volunteer firefighting program, a person must be at least 18 and pass a handful of exams and a drug test.

“My neighbor is an EMT. She talked to me and asked how I would feel about joining the fire department,” Spencer said. “I liked the idea and so I started as a firefighter. Now I want to go on with it. I’ve joined a program in Benson so I can take night classes.”

This wasn’t always Spencer’s plan.

“I had a couple scholarships to play lacrosse in college and I wanted to be a crime scene investigator, but when I joined the fire department, something just kind of clicked,” Spencer said.

Spencer said his relationship with other employees at the Fire Department has helped him build plans for college.

“I am going to start a full year paramedic course. I am going to double major in Fire I and Fire II, and join the part-time fire department in Bellevue. They will pay for my schooling,” Spencer said. “After, I will either continue with Omaha Fire Department or if I can get a spot, I might go out of the state,” he said.

For now, Spencer’s job includes training and meetings with discussions on training schedules, community outreach, and budgeting.

“Training is usually 3 or 4 other firefighters and our fire captain. Rarely, it’s a burning house fire. It’s usually simple pump training or training for using foam or water,” Spencer said. “Sometimes, it is vehicle extrication or walking around the station in our air tanks, making sure we have good flow of our breaths,” he said.

Working over a thousand hours in the last nine months, Spencer’s job has not been an easy one.

“At first, I was a little unsure, I was wondering what would be the risk of this job,” Spencer said. “But I thought about the situations I was in. I told myself to stop and slow down. I know what I am doing. I knew that I was going to get myself into this. And now, I don’t feel that way. I’m happy with what I do.”