Student works as firefighter in small Missouri town

Jacob Pruitt, Opinion Editor

Cleveland, Missouri.

Population: 592.

Western Cass Fire Department, located off Cleveland’s main road, has no name and is not paved.

Senior Matt Andrasik spends most of his time here.

Matt is a probationary firefighter at Western Cass. He is still in training to become a full-fledged firefighter, but has the basic knowledge to do the jobs required there.

Matt’s father, Mark Andrasik, volunteered at the Leawood fire department 21 years ago.

Jerry Streck, a former fire chief of the Leawood fire department, has been a long-time family friend and inspired Matt to become a firefighter.

Work at Western Cass differs from a normal part-time job. Even when Matt isn’t at the station, he can still be called at any time to answer a distress call.

“Most of the time, when we get a call, I’m at the station,” Matt said. “Otherwise, I get a text from Scott so I come to the station.”

Calls to the fire station can vary wildly, Scott Beuer, fellow Western Cass Fire Department firefighter, said.

“Out here in a rural area, we get a lot of different calls,” Beuer said. “Someone calls 911 for whatever emergency they happen to have — anytime they need help and it’s not something law enforcement deals with. Anything from grass fires to EMS [Emergency Medical Services].”

The more serious calls Western Cass deals with are those that involve potential injuries to people.

“We had a grass fire that was rapidly spreading out of a huge field and approaching a house, about two minutes from our station; we had to hustle to put out the fire,” Beuer said.

Western Cass volunteers commonly do jobs normally associated with paramedics. There were seven firefighters, each an Emergency Medical Technician, standing by at a recent rodeo.

“There was one kid at the rodeo, if we hadn’t been there, he probably wouldn’t have made it,” Matt said. “I held his neck in place, so he couldn’t move it. If he had moved it at all, he could have become paralyzed.”

Volunteering at the fire department can be challenging.

“That same night (of the rodeo), we had seven patients at the same time,” he said. “It was like all hell broke loose.”

Mark said firefighting is a great career choice for anyone interested in public service.

“I think its an honorable career where you have the opportunity to help people and make a good living,” Mark said.

Matt said he looks into the future beyond volunteering at Western Cass.

“I’ve always wanted to be a firefighter,” he said. “I’ve just stuck with everything I need to do by going through all the necessary stuff here to become a full-fledged firefighter at a big department.”