Camp Teaches Kids More Than Fire Safety
The Southern Pines Fire Department recently conducted a weeklong academy to teach children about fire safety.
A competition took place on the final day of the Youth Fire Academy, held in conjunction with the town's Parks and Recreation Department.
Campers were divided into three squads, with each one competing against one another, Fire Marshal John Stone said. The events included such things as hose deployment, hose drag, placing a ladder and bandaging up a victim, he said.
In the end, "B Shift" triumphed, and as a reward members received a free dinner as a group, courtesy of Cracker Barrel.
"The biggest reward is knowing that their team has done the best it can possibly do," Stone said.
The camp was for children ages 8 to 13. There were plans for a camp for children ages 14 to 18 that did not occur.
"We had one scheduled, but just not enough people signed up for it this year," Stone said. "Hopefully there will be interest as we build this academy up to where the older youth would like to participate, too."
While a camp geared toward older youth would likely have had more potentially hazardous activities, the younger children still had plenty of fun, safe things to do.
"Part of what we wanted them to learn is some life skills and fire safety in the home," Stone said. "The things we teach them include how to use an automatic external defibrillator, how to first aid bandage, how to deploy fire hose lines and how to properly put a ladder up on a building."
One of the goals of the camp was to educate children. The firefighters who coordinated the camp hope it will inspire the children to become firefighters one day, but the most important thing is that they learn life skills that will help them in the future and that they can ultimately pass on to their own children.
It also gives the department an opportunity to interact with the community in a laid-back setting.
"We want to meet them now, not after a fire, car wreck or natural disaster," Stone said. "We want them to be prepared."
One way the camp tried to increase preparedness was through an assignment given to the children that instructed them to go home and design a fire safety plan for their family. This included checking all of the fire alarms, making sure there are two ways out of the house and mapping out the floor plan of the home.
"He made sure we had our fire plan intact," said Tina Weathersby, whose son, John, participated in the camp. "I think it's benefited our family as a whole."
Fire science was also covered during the camp.
"We wanted them to get an understanding of how fire really burns, because Hollywood often shows it as something it's really not," Stone says.
Participation in the camp, now in its second year, has grown. Last year, 14 children signed up, while this year enrollment reached its 20-child maximum, although only 18 participated.
"I'd say it's been very successful, and we definitely plan on keeping it going," Stone said. "We have a very good group."
The parents of the children who participated would agree. Three of the kids in the camp are actually children of Southern Pines firefighters. The nonfirefighter parents had positive things to say about the camp.
"I enrolled John in the camp because he was able to do it with his friend, and it was something he wanted to do," Weathersby said. "He has thoroughly enjoyed it. He comes home and tells us what he learned every day, and he's learned a lot."
The young firefighters are not the only ones who gained something from the experience.
"We learn just as much from them as they do from us," Stone said. "It's all about teamwork."
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