Student-Firefighter Is Finding Fulfillment in His Chosen Path


(Monday, April 9, 2007 7:25 AM EDT)

Many high school students have visions of what they want to be when they grow up. Flint Hill School senior A.J. Coston is getting an early start on his dream job as a volunteer firefighter and emergency-medical technician in Loudoun County.

“I've always wanted to be a firefighter,” Coston said at a recent event. “I'd watch the trucks go by, lights flashing and sirens blaring, wondering where they were going.”

Once Coston entered high school and learned that he could volunteer with Loudoun County's Department of Fire, Rescue and Emergency Management when he turned 16, he jumped at the opportunity.

While still going to school and keeping up with his homework, Coston attended training classes three times a week: two nights during the school week and all day on Saturdays. He completed 160 hours of training to qualify as a volunteer firefighter .

The volunteer fire and rescue system in Loudoun County has about 1,200 highly-trained professional volunteers. Volunteers actually outnumber paid County EMS, fire and rescue staff by four to one, and helps save Loudoun County taxpayers more than $14 million per year.

Coston is now a line officer sergeant and works at Station 13 in Leesburg on the weekends, when he usually responds to three or four calls a night.

“We sleep, watch television and eat at the firehouse,” Coston told students. “And sometimes, at 2 a.m., when we're asleep, we'll get a call and we have to be ready to gear up quickly.”

One particularly memorable experience for Coston was helping rescue four people who had been struck by lightning. He performed CPR on the victims, keeping his cool the whole time. In high-stress rescue situations, “you just think about what you have to do,” he told students.

Coston is the first person in his family to become a firefighter, and he plans on continuing in the field. Upon graduation from high school this spring, he hopes to get a degree in emergency-medical care and train to be a flight medic.

“My parents worry about me,” Coston said. “But they think what I'm doing is amazing.”

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Flint Hill School senior A.J. Coston is a volunteer firefighter/EMT in Loudoun County.
(Photo by Kristen Armstrong)

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