The story behind this touching exchange between a firefighter and young boy

When a school bus crashed while carrying special needs children, the local fire department stepped in to help soothe the load of anxious kids and coax them into the safety of an ambulance.

One little boy Jojo refused to step onto the bus. So firefighter Andrew Kirchner, a volunteer for the Manheim Fire Department, in the US state of Pennsylvania, stepped in to help.

He offered Jojo, who is autistic and nonverbal, a soft toy from a box the department had brought with them when they responded to the November 22 incident, and instantly managed to cement a bond with him.

They stood together in a nearby field, away from the ambulance, until Jojo was calm enough to be returned to school.

The heartwarming photo captured Jojo clasping firefighter Andrew Kirchner's cheeks. Source: Facebook/Manheim Fire Department

In an adorable gesture, captured by another officer, Jojo leaned in and clasped the cheeks of his new friend to rub noses, something his mum later explained was his way of saying “thank you”.

The photo was shared to Facebook by the fire department, capturing the attention of Jojo’s mum, Samantha Colón, who then set about the search for her son’s “guardian angel”.

Eventually she managed to track down Mr Kirchner last week and express her gratitude personally.

“My heart is so full knowing how well my son was taken care of. He is the most loving, little boy that gets very frightened when his routine is disrupted. I hope you are all as proud as I am to have such an amazing man amongst us. Thanks again Andy,” Ms Colón wrote in a comment to the fire department’s post.

The fire department said it was equally as proud to have Mr Kirchner on board to assist in such situations.

Andrew Kirchner was praised for calming Jojo (pictured with mum Samantha Colón) after his bus crashed. Source: Facebook

“It is our goal to always be there for our community. To serve with the utmost amount of compassion and to treat all of our ‘customers’ as if they were our children, our parents, our friends,” its post read.

“We’re very proud of Andy’s compassion showed to Jojo, as well as the rest of our crew that day.”

Many others praised the work of the response team in comments to the post.

“Thank you, Andy, for showing such love and patience. May we all take note and act accordingly,” one person wrote.

“Thank you Andrew. That was the best thing you could have done for this young man,” another said.

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