Determination: One-handed firefighter defies odds - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

Determination: One-handed firefighter defies odds

(Source: Nichole Cartmell/KFVS) (Source: Nichole Cartmell/KFVS)
ALEXANDER COUNTY, IL (KFVS) -

Anthony Smith learned early on, challenges come in all forms. 

He was born without his right hand.

"The cord got wrapped around my wrist whenever I was in my mom's stomach," Smith said. "And it ended up cutting my hand off."

In the past, people have wondered if Smith was capable of completing certain tasks, like when he joined the Horseshoe Lake Fire Department nearly 11 years ago.

"Whenever I got on here, some of the guys were like 'I don't know, he may not be able to do some of the things,'" Smith said.

Fire Chief Michael Honey vaguely remembers the first fire the two fought together. However, he distinctly recalls watching Smith work.

"It was different," Honey said. "I'm like there's no way he can do what other people can."

But Smith defied the odds, and did it all with one hand.

"He can do anything that everyone else can do and probably better," Honey said.

He's been on the volunteer fire department since he turned 16.

"I fell in love with it," Smith said. "That first fire we went to, the lights and sirens going down there, fighting fires, it was an adrenaline rush and I loved it, and I've been hooked ever since."

Smith says his missing hand is just part of who he is. It's never stopped him, even when it came to learning how to ride a bike or to drive his five-speed truck.

"Everything that I have done, I didn't want any modifications for me," Smith said. "I would just figure out a way.

His motto: "If you set your mind to it and have determination, you can do whatever you want to do."

That is the same attitude he uses on the front line, even though the fire department is technically his "side" job.

He also works as an officer at the Shawnee Correctional Center in Vienna, Ill.

"There are times as soon as I get home we get called out and I don't get any sleep and then I have to go to work tired," Smith said. "I mean that's part of it."

But Smith says that is minimal. In the grand scheme of things, a fire can be a matter of life or death.

"If I just save one person's life while I am on this fire department I'm happy," Smith said. "I don't need anything else, I don't care about money or anything, as long as I can save someone's life or help some that's all I want."

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Fire Chief Honey describes Smith as determined. Honey says he is always looking for people like Smith to join his department.

"Someone willing to do the job to do the training, to be a part of the department," Honey said. "... You have to be able to depend on that guy that is going through that front door with you. You're depending on him."

Nearly 70 percent of fire departments across the country are made up of volunteers.

Interested candidates are encouraged to contact their local department.

People can stop by the Horseshoe Lake Fire Department to fill out an application.

Smith said the hiring process can vary. However, their department will then vote to accept the person as a probationary firefighter. After six months, the department will vote again to decide whether to make the person a full time volunteer.

There is no mandatory training or requirements. However, the department does host basic training sessions throughout the year.

Honey says the key is having enough people dedicated to answering the page when it goes out.

"We don't have to go the call but if no one answers the call then no one is going to show up to help."

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