A young man of few words, Branson Aycock speaks mostly through his actions to show his commitment to his small community of a little more than 1,000. Aycock is the youngest firefighter in Moody.
The 18-year-old started with the Moody Volunteer Fire Department at 16 as a junior volunteer firefighter but has been around tanker trucks and fire hoses his entire life, he said.
“My grandpa and dad were both firefighters before, and I used to go on calls with my dad,” Aycock said. “But they’re not firefighters anymore.”
Now, the soon-to-be graduate will start working to follow in their footsteps and become a full-time professional firefighter, he said.
He will graduate from Moody High School in May with plans to attend McLennan Community College’s fire academy, and he hopes to join the Waco Fire Department once he’s finished. He also hopes to remain a volunteer firefighter for Moody, Aycock said.
He also was recently recognized for his service as one of the finalists at this year’s 37th annual Youth Citizenship Awards in Waco.
He has seen plenty of house fires, saved a woman whose car was swept away by floodwater and helped the mayor and his wife rebuild part of their house when a semi plowed through the middle of it after a wreck caused the driver to go off the road.
But the death of his best friend, a fellow volunteer firefighter, cemented his desire to continue being a first responder, he said. Aycock was the first to respond to a rollover wreck and discovered his friend Logan Fisher was the victim, and that call changed everything, he said.
“It was pretty hard. Once I got there, I was like, ‘I got to do what I’ve got to do.’ And once I finished, it kind of hit me,” Aycock said. “They told me I could miss however many fires I needed to, but I just got back on the truck. He was a firefighter, and he graduated from MCC. I always used to talk to him about the fire academy, and we always used to talk on the phone about his day. I guess since that happened, it kind of just kept me going because I want to pursue his dream.”
Example of selflessness
Though that’s all he would say about the tragedy, Aycock called it the worst call he’s responded to in the two years he’s been with the department, he said. But those who have seen Aycock grow up know his decision to get back on the truck afterward is a small example of the selflessness they’ve seen from him his entire life, they said.
When the semi crashed into Janie Brown’s home about five years ago, Aycock and his father were some of the first to step up and help her family rebuild, she said. It was a miracle the more than 100-year-old house didn’t collapse, and luckily Brown was at work and her husband was in the shop at the time, she said.
“Branson was right in there helping as much as he could. … He was out there getting dirty with everybody else,” Brown said. “It impressed me a young man was so eager. The thing with Branson is he always smiles and he just has the heart of a servant.”
Mike Alton, the fire chief and Moody High agriculture teacher, has been with the department for more than 30 years. Alton had Aycock’s father as a student and has known Aycock since he was a baby, he said. To him, Aycock is just someone who has always cared for the Moody community.
“When Branson was 3, 4 or 5 years old on calls during the summer, his dad would have him with him and bring him up,” Alton said. “Anytime we had any fundraisers or fire meetings, he’d always come with his dad and he always told me back even when he was 5 years old, ‘I’m going to be a fireman.’
“I can remember one time way back, we ordered T-shirts for the department and he asked me for one. All we had were adult sizes, but I had a small and gave it to him. And I remember him showing up at meetings, and he always had it on. It was always way too big for him, but he always had an interest in it.”
Whether it’s 2 a.m. or he’s in the middle of class, Aycock seldom misses a fire call, and the school district has a policy about working with students like Aycock who also serve with the department, Alton said. His dedication even earned him some recognition as a local hero in the school hallways and around town about six months ago when he rescued a woman clinging to a tree in rushing waters, Alton said.
Alton, Aycock and another firefighter went out to look for a person who was reported trapped in a car in rising water when a passer-by told them the car had already been swept away. As the firefighters evaluated the situation, they heard someone cry for help and spotted a woman hanging onto tree limbs in a swollen creek.
“We were trying to decide what to do and finally determined we would have to enter the water to get to her because we didn’t know how long she could stay, and the water was still rising,” Alton said.
Aycock and another firefighter took a cable and rope and waded into the water close to her, but she couldn’t reach the rope. So Aycock and the other firefighter made their way all the way to the tree and pulled the woman away as Alton helped reel them back in with the cable, he said.
Moody firefighters have responded to motorists stranded in flooded roadways before, but that was the department’s first true high-water rescue, Alton said.
The next night, the department responded to another one, and though the situation wasn’t as dire as the night before, Branson was out on that call, too, Alton said.
“He’s just as good as any (firefighter) I would know,” Alton said. “He’s very conscious of such things and very community service-oriented. He loves to do things for the community, and he’s one physically able young man willing to do nearly anything.
“And in those types of conditions, he’s not scared. I didn’t even know it at that time, but one of the TV stations had come out here to do an interview about that rescue, and he said, ‘I really don’t like the water.’ … But he never said anything to me about it. He never shied back. If you ask him to do something, he’ll jump in there and give you 110 percent on it. He’s the same way in my ag classes.”
But Aycock, trying to stay humble, said the effort simply stems from the love he has for his community. He also juggles a job as a farmhand for another Moody resident, and he’ll spend his summer before the fire academy trying to help the farmer as much as possible between fire calls, he said.
“I just like helping the community,” Aycock said. “I don’t know what else to say.”