Decked out in red firefighting helmets, fourth grade graduates learned all about firefighting at the Denton Fire Department’s youth summer camp this past week. From learning how to tie knots, do CPR and rappel, the kids got a little taste of what it takes to be a firefighter.
“They’re learning a lot of team building exercises,” Jason Eddington, a community service officer for the fire department, said Wednesday. “They’re obviously learning a whole bunch about being a firefighter and the different aspects of being a firefighter. They’re also learning about just working together to figure stuff out.”
This is the first year of the camp, which is free, and there are plans for it to become an annual occurrence.
“Really how we ended up doing it is one of our firefighters ... he actually came and did one of these programs as a kid and is still a part of that city, and really helped incorporate us into doing that here as well,” Eddington said. “That’s kind of how we ended up getting it here. He sold it to me, and here we are doing it.”
Twenty-two incoming fifth graders, who were recommended by Denton ISD counselors, took part in the camp, and Eddington said they’ll probably cap the attendance to around 35 to 40 kids for future camps.
“The hope is that these kids, there may be some that this might spark a little interest and [they will] want to be a firefighter one day,” he said. “But they’ll also tell their friends and get them — they may think, ‘Oh those guys are cool,’ and it just kind of spreads that way.”
Part of the camp is discipline, and Eddington said the kids have done a lot of pushups.
“That’s all part of what they’re trying to learn — accountability, obviously any safety concerns, but also just having their own things they’re responsible for,” Eddington said. “Like their helmets, all those things that if they don’t show up or they leave those or whatever — they have to do pushups as a group, they get in trouble as a group. It develops itself. It kind of fixes itself. There’s definitely a semi-paramilitary part of the camp but it works.”
By Wednesday, the kids had done “close to 200” pushups, said 10-year-old Ben Floyd.
“I honestly like the pushups,” 10-year-old Kahlan Stegman said. “I like the pushups because it’s good exercise and I’m trying to get muscle.”
And on Friday, the kids learned how to rappel and how a vehicle extrication works.
“I thought we would just be putting out fires and things like that,” Kahlan said when asked about her expectations for the camp. “Work, work, work, because when they said homework, I was like, ‘Ugh! No,’ so I thought it was hard homework, math, things like that.”
But Kahlan said she loved the program.
“It’s not an ordinary camp,” she said. “It’s so awesome. You’re basically doing everything that a firefighter does. I really like it.”
Also on Friday, the Denton Fire Department held a graduation ceremony for the campers and their families and handed out four awards — Top Knot, Top Gun, Most Improved and Top Stride.
“Those award winners — the plan is that they will come back the next year to help with the program,” Eddington said. “So there will potentially be four kids in this class that come back and they will separate themselves from the group — they’ll wear like a white helmet — but they will also help each one of those kids, the groups that they’re [broken] up into, so they’ll learn faster.”
When asked what was their favorite part, Ben said he likes learning the different knots, and 10-year-old Kevin Govan said the water component of the camp.
Eddington said the campers learned “hose stream deployment,” and there was “a whole, whole lot of having fun with the hose streams and water. That seems to be the biggest hit.”
Kahlan said she might want choose firefighting as a career.
“I was looking for something active — this is really active and it gets you moving,” she said. “It seems really fun.”