03/14/08 — Football and fighting fires help keep these friends together

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Football and fighting fires help keep these friends together

By Nick Hiltunen
Published in News on March 14, 2008 2:00 PM

These three "brothers" -- two of them by birth -- do everything together.

They fight fires, go to Rosewood High School, play football and work at Builder's Discount Center.

Twins Eric and Bryan Jones, 18, and their lifelong friend Byron Cavenaugh, 18, have just always been close, they said.

"We've been friends all of our life," Bryan said. "Basically, the three of us are together 24/7. We're always together."

The boys are soft-spoken and seemingly quite earnest, as they modestly but excitedly tell how they got into a life of service as firefighters.

"Since I was a little boy, I've always thought firefighters were something to look up to," Bryan said. "It's exciting -- especially when the pager goes off, when they come on the air, your turn on a call. It's a working fire. We need some help."

Added Byron, "the adrenaline really starts going."

That addiction to adrenaline may have helped the trio make all-conference honorable mention in Rosewood's Carolina 1-A Conference, according to Coach Bobby Britt.

It also may help them in times of crisis, when they don turnout gear and head to scenes of peril and suffocating smoke.

The three young men volunteer with the Little River Fire Department, where Fire Chief Mike Aycock says they've played a valuable role.

They had just started their training in December, the fire chief said.

That meant their roles then were mostly on the outside of burning structures, as more experienced volunteers operated the pumps.

"They always make all the fires that they can, and they've just been very good. Reliable," Aycock said. "They've just been there when we needed them."

The boys say their role gives them plenty of exercise, running hoses and getting equipment off the trucks.

"We're probably the most active people up there," said the son of Ronnie and Joann Cavenaugh of Rosewood. Rosewood's Beth and Eugene Jones are the twins' parents.

So how do the boys' parents deal with knowing their children play active roles in controlling dangerous scenes?

Differently, say the boys.

"My mom was kind of nervous about it. My dad, he doesn't really like to talk about it either," Eric said.

But Mrs. Cavenaugh is enthused, Byron said.

"My parents are real supportive of it, my mom wants me to go to fire school and be a full-time firefighter," Byron said. "She's got her scanner all set up."

But how do they manage such a busy schedule when there's always the possibility that a scanner signal tone may call them away?

It involves setting priorities, Eric said.

"School comes first, and then fire," Eric said. "Until I'm out of school, that's how it's going to be."

But at least one time, fire came before football.

The boys got a call to a fire in Rosewood, and they hastily exited the locker room to get to the scene, they said.

"When we started practice, they weren't on the practice field," Coach Britt said. "I know that's important for an area like Rosewood. I don't condone missing practice for that, but I wasn't too hard on them. They had to do a little extra work after practice to make up for what they missed."