Saturday was a 14th birthday party to remember for aspiring firefighter Joseph McGee.
Following a tour of the Columbia fire station, Joseph participated in a mock fire call by dressing in full gear and riding along with his mother Ellen in a fire truck to put out a small pallet fire behind the Dupo engine house.
“He loved the sirens and loved that he was going with his friends,” Ellen said of Joseph’s ride in the fire truck.
Joseph, who has Down syndrome, then joined family and friends for gifts and cake back at the Columbia fire house.
“Joseph, you like to give hugs, don’t you?” Columbia Assistant Fire Chief Jim Broshears asked following the mock fire.
“Yeah,” Joseph replied.
“Tell all the firemen to come in, let’s get a big hug,” Broshears said as all responding firefighters gathered for a heartfelt group hug with the birthday boy.
Back at the fire house, Broshears played a recording of the emergency radio dispatch call of the mock fire for Joseph and his family and friends to hear.
“Hope you have a great day and a happy 14th birthday from Columbia dispatch and Columbia fire,” the dispatcher said on air, after which everyone in the room – including Joseph – applauded.
Ellen was grateful for the kind gesture from the Columbia Fire Department to help celebrate her son’s big day.
“It was a very nice surprise that they even did this for him,” she said. “He just loves his firefighters. He’s been coming here since he was 3, and they’ve been nothing but great to him.
“They’re his best buds.”
Broshears said many members of the department joined together to plan this special day.
“We had a big crew of guys coming out to help get everything ready and the Dupo Fire Department also helped us out,” Broshears said.
Seeing the 14-year-old Columbia boy fulfill a dream by extinguish a fire in full uniform was priceless, Broshears added.
“To watch the expressions on his face and all of our guys, everybody had smiles on their faces,” Broshears said. “He put the fire out.”R
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