Joseph Blanton could hardly wait to become a volunteer firefighter in Starr.
His father, Jason Blanton, has been with the Starr fire station for about a decade, and Joseph would follow him around there, just waiting for a chance to grow up and help.
"That's the kind of kid he is," said Starr Fire Chief Gregg Campbell. "He has always had a helper's heart."
Joseph Blanton was so eager to join the fire service that he started taking classes at 16, though he couldn't actually begin fighting blazes until two years later, Campbell said.
"He and his family, they are a big part of this station, a big part of this community," Campbell said. "Sometimes, you just know when somebody is special, and Joseph is. He always puts himself last and other people first. It's really ingrained in him."
Now the firefighters who call him L.B. — short for "Little Blanton" — are asking for prayers for the teen.
Joseph Blanton, 18, was driving to Greenville Memorial Hospital on Monday to take emergency medical technician training when his pickup truck ran off the highway near the intersection of U.S. 29 and Rogers Road in Anderson County, according to firemen and the South Carolina Highway Patrol.
His truck struck some trees, according to Trooper Joe Hovis.
Responding firefighters couldn't even see him at first, Campbell said, but then they saw the pickup's headlights in the woods. Joseph called out that he was trapped.
"At first, the responders didn't know how bad it was," Campbell said. "They knew he was broke up. They knew he had a bad gash on his head, but as they learned more, they knew it was serious."
Campbell said Blanton has some type of spinal cord injury, though the extent of it is not yet known.
"What we know is that Joseph is stable and alert and breathing on his own, and his family has seen some positive signs," Campbell said. "This community and this fire station are going to surround him in prayer, and we are praying for a full recovery. We believe there are promising signs. Real promising signs."
As of Tuesday afternoon, Joseph Blanton was in serious condition at Greenville Memorial Hospital, according to hospital spokeswoman Sandy Dees.
Hannah Vernon, who was Blanton's art teacher at Starr Elementary School years ago, is one of dozens of people who took part in a quickly organized prayer service for him.
"I remember when he was a little boy, he would get his classwork done and then he would come up to me and say: 'I there anything I can do to help you?' And he never outgrew that, thank God. He has such a servant's heart."
Joseph graduated from Crescent High School just a few months ago.
Joseph's mother, Jessica Glenn Blanton, thanked the community for its prayers in several Facebook posts Tuesday. She said Joseph said "Hey Mama," to her Tuesday morning, and that when Joseph's dad tickled the teen's foot, Joseph moved it.
Joseph also issued a meal request : a steak, egg and cheese biscuit from Jackie's Starr Mart and Cafe.
Vernon has posted several photos of children holding written Bible verses in hopes they will inspire the Blanton family.
One of the verses, from the book of James, reads:
"The prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well. The Lord will raise them up."
Vernon said she believes the prayers of many will make a difference.
"We are all praying for a miracle," Vernon said. "We are asking God to do what we know he can do."
Follow Nikie Mayo on Twitter @NikieMayo or email her at [email protected].