DC Fire and EMS welcomes future recruit who went viral

A Charles County, Maryland, boy went viral on Instagram last week, after a video his mom shot of him practicing to be a firefighter was posted online.

The child, 11-year-old Darrien Cole of White Plains, was seen jumping into uniform, pedaling his bike to a fire contained to a small, metal can, and then putting it out. Later, the film cut to him dragging a body and performing CPR.

Real-life firefighters noticed. On Monday morning, Cole, who is normally somewhat shy and reserved, was the center of attention, as D.C. Fire and EMS welcomed him to the agency’s training academy in Southwest.

Cole and Fire Chief John Donnelly spoke for a few minutes on the front steps before Deputy Chief Anthony Kelleher, who is in charge of training, took Cole around the facility, letting him meet officers and other chiefs in there for classes, reinforcing the idea that firefighters are always learning.

But the real fun happened outside, where Cole was timed as he had to rush on his uniform and protective gear like he was responding to a fire. Then, he dragged a 200 foot hose across the parking lot.

“When the water comes in, it’s going to kind of jerk a little bit,” he was warned as another firefighter held the giant, heavy canvas hose just behind him.

“I liked when I ran to the blue door with the fire hose,” said Cole, after the fact. “It was heavy, it was hard to turn it on and turn it off.”

But Kelleher came away impressed.

“You can tell he’s not scared to try new things,” said the deputy chief. “The stuff we put him through today, there was no apprehension.

In fact, after seeing the video, Kelleher said the thought was Cole had to have a connection to the fire department already, since what he was seen doing is pretty close to how they train to begin with.

“He picks up on everything really quick,” he added. “I showed him one time how to turn the hose on, he’s got it. We showed him one time how to put on the personal protective gear, he’s rolling through in a minute.”

His mom wasn’t surprised at all.

“Since he was three, he wanted to be a firefighter,” she said. “For every Halloween, that’s what he wanted to be. Every year it was ‘I want to be a firefighter’ and then it was ‘could we visit the fire houses and do tours?’ So I kind of knew it wasn’t just a phase.”

Kelleher said that’s something most firefighters who work the job can relate to.

“It’s something I wanted to do since I could remember in this city,” said Kelleher.

“To see him with the passion he has, obviously it reminds all of us a little bit about how we were. It’s important to show what we do. We’re humans like everybody else. We have a very tough job and anybody that really has the drive to do it, we’ll welcome them with open arms.”

John Domen

John started working at WTOP in 2016 after having grown up in Maryland listening to the station as a child. While he got his on-air start at small stations in Pennsylvania and Delaware, he's spent most of his career in the D.C. area, having been heard on several local stations before coming to WTOP.

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