BROOKHAVEN, Pa. (AP) - Other firefighters often joked with
14-year-old Christopher Kangas that he would have to grow into his
helmet, which occasionally fell down over his ears and covered his
But his "brothers" at the Brookhaven Fire Company never
questioned the commitment of the station's youngest firefighter.
"From the time he was 2 years old, in every picture he's got a
fire truck, fire gear or he's pretending to be a fireman," said
Mark Messner, a volunteer firefighter and Christopher's neighbor.
"When he was a kid, he had a tricycle he called his fire truck."
On Saturday, Christopher was struck while riding his bicycle to
the fire house to answer a call. He died the next morning.
Messner had been sitting on his front porch with Christopher
when the station's siren began to scream that day. Christopher
jumped on his bike and headed to the nearby firehouse to slip into
"He took off and I said, 'Be careful,' and, 'I'll put a some
burgers on for you when you get back,"' recalled Messner, who is
also a borough police officer.
About two blocks from the station, on a back road, Christopher's
bicycle collided with a car driven by a 16-year-old. The two boys
had played on a baseball team a couple years earlier.
Christopher was flown to Children's Hospital of Philadelphia on
Saturday evening, where he died early Sunday morning.
Even though Christopher wasn't permitted to go into burning
buildings or hold a hose at a fire scene, he spent his afternoons
and evenings monitoring a police scanner or listening for the
"He was always ready to go. Other guys were here pulling their
gear on and he was already dressed," said 17-year-old Mike Kelly,
also a junior firefighters.
Kelly recalled when Christopher heard the station's siren in the
middle of a baseball game and left the field for the firehouse.
"I asked him, 'Did you win?' and he said 'I don't know. I
left,"' Kelly said. Christopher's coach benched him for leaving
during the game.
"You knew that he would be here for a long time," Kelly said.
Julie Amber-Messick, Christopher's mother, said her son was
picked on when he moved to the area four years ago. The other
firefighters made him feel like he belonged, she said.
Most of the jobs Christopher did at the station were menial
ones, like cleaning the station or equipment, but he loved it, she
"You couldn't get him to take out the trash or clean a
basement, but he would do it there," she said.
He also loved riding in the truck with the other firefighters
and taking part in drills at the station, his fellow firefighters
Amber-Messick said she wasn't sure what had made Christopher so
crazy about firefighting. His father died when he was 2, and nobody
close to the family had ever been involved in fighting fires. But
the first thing he did when he moved to Woodcrest, about 20 miles
southwest of Philadelphia, was find the station, she said.
"I think he just had it in him," she said of her only child.
"He always said he was going to be a firefighter."
Flowers and mementos form a memorial at the site where he was
struck, just around the corner from the station. Christopher's
flag-draped casket was carried to the station on a fire truck one
last time during his funeral on Thursday.
"So he made it there eventually," his mother said.
(Copyright 9515 by The Associated Press.
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05-13-2002, 04:08 AM #1
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