Teenage firefighters battle Texas wildfires as they spread across the Panhandle

When the largest wildfire in Texas history arrived in the city of Pampas earlier in the week, 15-year-old Nathan Slater told ABC News he immediately knew where he wanted to be.

Minutes after his mother, Christy, picked him up from school Monday after classes were suspended because of the fire, he said he had to respond to a page from the Hoover Volunteer Fire Department. Last two months as a junior firefighter.

“It was my first fire. I was excited and nervous at the same time,” Nathan told ABC News.

When he arrives at the station, he discovers that he's not the only teenage member of the squad to answer the call.

Throughout the week, nine junior members of the volunteer fire department were recruited and paired with more experienced adults to battle wildfires around the city, which forced the evacuation of some homes.

The teenagers, aged between 14 and 17, were given various tasks by their supervisors – delivering water and supplies to members in the field, cutting fires and hot grass.

Since March 1, the Smokehouse Creek Fire, centered in the North Texas Panhandle, has burned more than a million acres in Texas and 25,000 acres in Oklahoma, according to the Texas A&M Forest Service.

As of March 1, the forest department said the fire was 15% contained.

Gage Hartman, 15, told ABC News he spent three days working until the early hours of the morning to help put out the fire.

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He said he felt a sense of fear when he came close to the smoke and fire, but at the same time, there was an adrenaline rush as he helped put out the fire.

“It's not scary once you get used to it,” he said, adding his mindset as he moved through the fire was, “It's 'get over it, you'll be fine'.”

Kade Preston, 17, told ABC News that the platoon's top officers were careful to make sure everyone was safe as they performed their duties. The teenagers also looked out for each other's well-being during their shifts, Kate said.

“If we get out of line … we'll check on each other, see how we're doing, give them water, if there's water, check on them mentally and physically and see how they're feeling,” he said.

“I feel like it eased some of the nerves in my system. I learned that some of my friends are with me,” Cage added.

For the parents of some junior firefighters, the experience was both terrifying and poignant.

Christy Slater, Nathan's mother, told ABC News she was in tears when she dropped her son off at the station on Monday and returned from her shift early Tuesday morning.

“I was kind of in shock about the whole situation. So yeah, it takes a while to realize what your kid is really going through when fighting that fire,” she said.

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Nathan said his family was on his mind as he worked to put out the fire.

“It was devastating as it got closer and I stood back and watched my parents get out as I helped them. But I knew they were safe and I was going to be safe because I had everyone in the fire department around me.” he said.

Heather Hartman, Gage's mother, told ABC News that she was proud of her son's courage and all the help the community had to offer when he needed it.

“He's surrounded by really amazing people. So I think it's a good opportunity for him to find out what he wants to do down the road,” she said.

“If your kids decide they want to join the Army or the Navy, or whatever these days, there are negative consequences for everyone. So stay positive and support your kids, and let your kids show the world that there's still hope. Young people and they're just not, you know, On the way,” Hartman added.

Many of the junior firefighters told ABC News they got involved because they had something to do and wanted to stay out of trouble. After fighting wildfires, many said they plan to contribute as much as they can to the firehouse and possibly become a first responder as a career when they grow up.

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For now, as wildfires continue to spread and many parts of the Texas Panhandle continue to burn, the boys hope their work, camaraderie and spirit will inspire others to lend a hand in dark times.

“I believe there are still good ones out there,” Nathan said of his teammates' dedication.

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