Leland Paniza -

Leland Paniza

Leland Paniza is a teenager of few words, owing mainly to autism. What betrayed his excitement watching emergency responders from Shell work a live-fire training project at Brayton Fire Training Field was a shy smile that slowly spread across his face.

“I want to be a firefighter,” Leland said. “I want to save people.”

Leland, a student at A&M Consolidated High School in College Station, Texas, has a friend who got word to the Shell responders training at Brayton about his fascination with firefighting. The result was an invitation to come watch the big fire in person.

He arrived at project 31 – the process complex prop – shortly after the flames were ignited. One of the Shell instructors took time to explain the training scenario underway as the firefighters labored to extinguish the propane fed chemical operations fire.

Slowly the hose teams moved about, pushing back the various flames until the designated responder felt safe enough to step forward and shut the key valve, starving the flames into submission.

The unassuming teen quietly absorbed all this action and information. His attempt to verbalize the experience was simple, intense and direct.

“Big fires are exciting,” Leland said. “I’m having a good time.”