Ed Stone student finds family with firefighters

May 01, 2024
Christian Teeter, a 14-year-old eighth grade student at Edward Stone Middle School, sits on the back of Engine 727 April 26 at the Burlington Fire Department just before leaving on a call.

Christian Teeter, a 14-year-old eighth grade student at Edward Stone Middle School, sits on the back of Engine 727 April 26 at the Burlington Fire Department just before leaving on a call.

Christian Teeter was a toddler living in California when he first caught a glimpse of what his future would look like.

He was 4-and-a-half years old, and he was hungry. A party pizza beckoned from the freezer and the buttons on the microwave were within his reach. He’d seen his mother make party pizzas before. How hard could it be?

It turned out to be harder than he thought.

The microwave caught fire and smoke billowed throughout the kitchen. He ran to wake his mother from a nap and the two escaped the home. Christian watched helplessly as the smoke continued to expand, seemingly filling the whole house, and as flames threatened his most treasured toys.

Then the firefighters arrived, heroes who rode in on big red trucks with flashing lights.

“It kind of sparked an interest,” Christian, now 14, recalled on a recent morning while sitting in the nurse’s office at Edward Stone Middle School. “If they wouldn’t have shown up when they did, my house would have been gone, all my stuff.”

Over the following years, Christian would continue to have positive interactions with public safety workers and would watch with curiosity and fascination when emergency vehicles drove past.

“I was really big on like, every time I’d hear a siren, I’d start recording them just go by, and now I’m actually in the truck watching somebody record us as we go by,” Christian said.

Christian joined the Burlington Fire Department’s Explorer Program after learning about it as a seventh-grader during the Build My Future event at Southeastern Community College’s fairgrounds. He is now certified in CPR and AED and spends his Friday nights and Saturdays at the fire station, accompanying firefighters when they have calls to respond to. He looks forward to learning about extraction over the summer.

“He is a very eager kid and he wants to constantly learn,” BFD Battalion Chief Luke Sneller said of Christian.

Christian likes going on calls and helping those in need, but he also likes the camaraderie that comes with being in the program.

“As an explorer, you’re treated like you’re family at the fire department,” Christian said.

That feeling of family is especially important to Christian.

“I’m in foster care. It’s just kind of an unfortunate situation, but I’d rather still help other people than use it as a reason to do bad, I guess,” Christian said. “Law enforcement and EMS were there for me at moments when I was having a really bad time in life, so now I get to see that from that perspective and I get to be able to be there for people who need it.”

School nurse Kathryn Menke has witnessed Christian’s ability to do just that first-hand. Earlier this school year, a student had a grand mal seizure while at school.

“Christian was in their room and he knew immediately what to do,” Menke said. “He had kids move the chairs away from them. He said to roll them on their side and he flew like the wind down here to me to say we need you up there.”

She was so impressed by Christian’s fast thinking and ability to remain calm under pressure that afterward, she called him to her office and called his foster parents to tell them what he had done.

The two began talking about his experiences in the program, and Christian asked if he could be on the school’s emergency response team. He can’t because he’s a student, but Menke was all the more impressed by his willingness to step up.

“I’m also impressed with his standard to confidentiality,” Menke said, explaining that other students, knowing Christian is in the program, will often ask him about things that happened over the weekend. Christian doesn’t budge. “He’s a stickler,” Menke added.

And for good reason. In addition to HIPAA laws and integrity, Christian is very serious about his long-term goal of becoming a Burlington firefighter, and one wrong move or slip of the tongue would put that future in jeopardy.

He plans to pursue the Public Safety Career and Technical Education pathway in high school and earn all of the credits he needs to graduate by his junior year.

“That way I can graduate early and then I’m going to try to go over to SCC and get my EMT and apply for Burlington Fire and go through their probationary and go to IFLS, which is the fire academy that Burlington has their firefighters go to,” Christian said.

In the meantime, Christian plans to continue in the Explorer program, surrounded by his second family and doing all he can to give back to his community.