ANSON, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – High schoolers usually relax or hang out with friends on Spring Break, but three Anson High School students spent theirs combating the devastating fires hitting the Big Country.
On most weekdays, you can find Anson High Junior Christian Ratliff studying for his upcoming UIL spelling competition. Just 17, Ratliff is a regular high school student, who works when he can and plays video games like Fortnite and Player Unknown Battlegrounds on the weekends.
But during his Spring Break vacation, Ratliff spent his time in Leuders and Hawley as a volunteer firefighter, working to put out the flames just north of Abilene.
“It can be a very emotional time seeing people lose everything, you know,” Ratliff said. “But knowing you can help them out and put out fires that wouldn’t reach another house, a church or school is really rewarding.”
Ratliff said he had long been fascinated with the idea of joining the fire department, but first wanted to go into the military. He said he later realized he wanted to help his community more directly, getting his foot in the door at the Anson Volunteer Fire Department at 16 years old.
“I remember when we were little, they [the fire department] would come to the school during fire prevention week,” Ratliff said. “They would show videos and have a room with fire. I loved getting to see all that.”
Having been a part of the Volunteer Fire Department for over a year now, Ratliff said there is never a day he is not prepared to go out.
“It feels like a rush, man, a lot of adrenaline, especially if it’s a wildfire,” Ratliff said. “Of course you don’t like to see a bunch of acres get burned, but at the same time you get to put it out, and with the smoke and the fire, it’s a lot of fun.”
Ratliff said he has received phone calls and text messages during class asking him to come help, but he said right now, school is his first priority.
Anson High School Principal Gina Overby says the school will release them if it is closer to the end of the day or the fires get too extreme.
Overby said the school is extremely proud of their three volunteer firefighters and encourages each student to want to give back to their community.
“These kids are our adults of tomorrow, and the fact that at this age they are willing to step up and do what needs to be done in a dangerous situation is refreshing,” Overby said. “To be able to put your life in danger to help others, if that doesn’t show maturity, I don’t know what does.”
Ratliff said while he enjoys the going out and fighting fires, it does come with its fair share of hair-raising challenges.
“I’ve thought about cutting it a few times, whenever I get the respirator off it’ll pull on my hair,” Ratliff said, sporting long, curly hair. “You know, it’ll look the same if I cut a little piece off here and there when I must.”
Even with the ups and downs of the job, Ratliff said he plans to attend Kilgore’s Fire Academy after his graduation.
Anson High School also has two other students in the Volunteer Fire Department, Daymon Rollins and Forest Tischler.