WVVA Hometown Hero: Joel Feltner is a multitasking first responder

Published: Mar. 29, 2023 at 5:36 PM EDT
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ANSTED, W.Va. (WVVA) - Most volunteer firefighters earn their livings outside their respective fire stations, and Joel Feltner is no different. But what sets this 48-year-old Ansted resident apart is both of his paid positions are vital links in the first responder community.

Feltner was born and raised in Ansted, first joining the local volunteer fire department as a junior firefighter when he was just 15, but he says it was not his first career choice as a child, " I wanted to be a marine biologist actually when I was little, but my older brother joined the fire department. He’s four years older than I am, and when I was a teenager and saw him run to the fire station. He also worked on the ambulance when I was in high school, and I would spend some of my weekends just riding on the ambulance with him and his partners. That’s when the bug bit me, and that’s what started me into it,” said Feltner.

Once Feltner started, he never looked back. Now, he works not only as a volunteer firefighter, but he’s also a critical care paramedic, an athletic trainer for Midland Trail High School’s football team, and he’s part of the Fayette County Volunteer Swift Water, Rope, and Rescue team.

“Whenever there’s a rescue, say in the gorge, someone falls, we converge from every direction, and we have a full complement of rescue gear. We use ropes to do raises. We can raise people hundreds of feet. Whereas if we had to carry them out by a path, it would take longer. And so, the team concept, the county team concept we have works phenomenally,” Feltner said.

Even with all the volunteer first responder work, Feltner’s full-time job is with HealthNet, the air-ambulance service that flies patients all over the mountain state. Their helicopters take a fraction of the time it takes for ground transportation to get patients to the hospital in an emergency.

“We say time is muscle, especially in a heart attack. You know, time is brain function in a stroke, so if we can get a helicopter on scene and get that patient flown to a level, one trauma center, a stroke center, a cardiac catheterization lab, those minutes, save not only life, but quality of life. You know, HealthNet is a vital part of our emergency response community,” Feltner said with a gleam of pride in his eyes.

With all the roles Feltner plays, both paid and volunteer, we asked where he gets the motivation to immerse his life into first responder of work. " My mother is a big part of that. We have attended church for as long as I can remember and she has instilled in us that, you know, we need to reflect Christ to everyone that we come in contact with and part of that is helping those that are less fortunate, helping those in their times of need. And that’s just something that her and my father also instilled in us as young kids and as we grew up, we look for opportunities to help others,” said Feltner.

When the opportunity presented itself for part-time work, Feltner did not stray from his self-described calling to help people as the voice on the other end of the phone when people dial 911 in Nicholas County, " Several years ago I kind of got a little burnt out on the EMS side of it so I come off the ambulance and worked for Fayette County full-time as a dispatcher.” For about a year, a year and a half, And then went back out on the ambulance, couldn’t stay away,” Feltner said, adding, " But I really enjoyed the 911 part so a friend of mine took over as head of Nicolas county department of homeland, security, emergency management, John McGuinness, and they were needing dispatchers in a bad way. So I went over there to help him out. I do that part time and it’s an enjoyable job for me,” said Feltner

When it comes to now joining the ranks of WVVA Hometown Hero winners, we asked how it feels to now have that label, " It’s kind of embarrassing and humbling actually that I would be nominated for anything like this,” said Feltner with a blushing grin. It’s the lessons this 48-year-old father to nine learned from his faith and parental influence that’s lead to a lifetime of service to his community, and it’s what makes Joel Feltner a WVVA Hometown Hero.