Young Woodville firefighter Matt Depner carries on family legacy

Published: Mar. 17, 2020 at 8:22 AM EDT
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Matt Depner was in the 4th grade when he lost his father.

His dad, Tom, was a firefighter.

Matt's grandfather was on the force, too.

So, you could say there was a little bit of pressure to join. In fact, Matt said as much.

"Definitely. There's a weight on my shoulders when it comes to putting on that gear. Yeah, there's definitely a sense of pride, family roots connected to it," said Depner.

Now, he's 22-years old. He's a full-time engineering student at the University of Toledo. And, unlike others his age, his weekends are filled with being on-call as a first responder.

Woodville Fire assistant chief David Miller said being a fire fighter is a calling, and one that can come at any time.

"Basically we're on call 24/7, 365 days a year. So, you juggle that with everything else you got going on in life," Miller said.

Miller's been with this Woodville unit for decades and he said he has a real empathy for Depner. Miller also lost his father at a young age.

"It's a tough experience," Miller said. "My dad wasn't involved in the fire service, my wife and my sister both are, and having somebody to talk to, in aspects of some things that happen, some things you see, you see some things that most people don't even think about seeing ... and it's hard to go home and not have anybody to talk to."

13abc's First Responder of the Week program allows viewers to reach out and tell us about someone who goes above and beyond everyday. Joanne Treece said Depner definitely fits that mold, and that's why she nominated him.

She can see he's made it his mission to recruit more young members.

"A month ago, we were at a pancake breakfast that he was volunteering for, and I happened to look up and see a lot of young people here volunteering, and I said to my daughter, 'Are those people who just recently joined?' And she said Matt's done a really good job trying to get the young people to recruit themselves into the township department," said Treece.

Matt said it is one of his goals.

"It's really important for me to recruit younger individuals to volunteer firefight because it is such a physically tasking job," Depner said.

With a taxing schedule between school and work, Depner was asked what he thinks his father would say about receiving the First Responder of the Week award.

"He'd be really proud," Depner said. "I can't imagine what he would say to me, necessarily, other than that he was proud."