Training to be a fireman is a tall order for anyone, but the odds are bigger when you're 4 feet 2 inches tall.
Still, Vince Brasco, 19, hasn't let a little thing like height stop him from volunteering at his local fire department in Carbon, Pa., for the past four years, despite being born with achondroplasia, a type of dwarfism that affects bone growth.
"I'll never let having achondroplasia stop me from doing anything," he told Barcroft Media. "I just set my mind to something and I go out and do my best. I wanted to be a fireman as a child so as soon as I was old enough to volunteer at 16 I did it."
Achondroplasia is a disability, but it hasn't affected Brasco's ability from going full blaze when it comes to fighting fires. Nope, he races to emergencies up to three times a day along with the rest of his crew, who all tower above him.
In fact, when there's a big inferno, Brasco mans the hose at neighborhood blazes with his colleagues, helping to control the high-pressure jets.
A bum knee and various medical problems have required him to have 14 surgeries on his left leg. But that hasn't prevented him from doing the job.
Brasco says the doctor who gave him the physical exam to join the fire squad tried to talk him out of it.
"It was a pretty heated argument because he doesn't know me," Brasco told PittsburghlLive.com. "He doesn't know what I can do. I'm just like everyone else. I just do things a little different. It's just different things I might need help with. I'm not afraid to ask for help."
Brasco's dedication to doing the best job possible is earning admiration from his fellow little people, such as Gary Arnold, a spokesman for Little People Of America, a support group for Americans of short stature due to dwarfism. According to the group, Brasco is the smallest firefighter that they know of.
"It's exciting to learn about Vince Brasco and the work he is doing as a volunteer fire fighter," Arnold told HuffPost Weird News. "People with dwarfism should be judged and evaluated according to their skills and abilities. It's great that Vince, who has proven that he has the skills and dedication, now has the opportunity to work alongside other firefighters and contribute to his community."
Arnold isn't shocked that the doctor who gave the physical had doubt, but he isn't surprised that Brasco has thrived either.
"For Vince and for other people with dwarfism, it's often social barriers against physical difference, not dwarfism, that stops them from doing things they want to do," Arnold said. "It is my hope that the example Vince sets will help others navigate the social barriers that stand in their way."
Although Brasco is only 87 pounds, he can bench-press 265 pounds, which he says is necessary to handle the hoses and other heavy-duty equipment, reported Metro.co.uk.
"I work out a lot -- as much as I can down at my gym," Brasco said. "It really helps on the job. You need to be strong. Because I can lift so much, I'm handy at salvage jobs where we have to move heavy bits of metal debris -- like after car
When there is a fire going, Brasco wears a custom-made fire suit while on the job.
"We had to take a normal suit and have it reduced down to fit me," he told Barcroft. "It was great when I put it on for the first time."
When Brasco isn't fighting fires, he works part time at his local Best Buy and is studying to become a nurse to help others with health needs. But whenever he can, he responds to calls for the volunteer fire service.
"If I am in the area, then I just drop everything and run," he told Barcroft.
Brasco hopes that once he completes his Firefighter Essentials exam, he'll be allowed to enter burning buildings.
"Until then, I'm happy to just fight fires from the outside, and attend other emergencies," Vince said, "but I know I've got what it takes."
His greatest challenge was when a neighbor's house caught fire last year.
"It was near my home and I knew the family inside. I was part of the crew outside and was firing water in through a second-floor window," he said. "It was the first time there was an accident involving someone I knew and I was really worried."
"Sadly, they lost their two German shepherds in the fire but all the people got out safe and I knew we did everything we could. I felt proud to be part of the crew that saved them."
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