Kids have a blast at fire safety camps

Published 8:23 pm Monday, July 18, 2011

With help from senior firefighter Mike Fernandez, right, Brennan Proffitt, 10, concentrates on aiming a fire hose while Hayden Neil, 9, keeps it steady at the Fire and Life Safety Camp at Suffolk Fire and Rescue Station 5. This week, 28 children are attending the camp and will learn about the job of a firefighter, what to do if there is a fire at their home and other topics.

It might be tough for a 10-year-old to hold up a fire hose while it’s blasting water, but that doesn’t make any less fun.

Just ask Clare Harbin, who said the weight of the hose didn’t ruin the fun of using the water pressure to knock over a traffic cone.

“It was awesome,” she said.

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Harbin, 10, is one of 28 children attending the first of four weeklong sessions of Fire and Life Safety Camp, presented by Suffolk Fire and Rescue, at Station 5 on Bridge Road.

Harbin said she wanted to take the camp to learn about being a firefighter.

“When I was a little kid, I wanted to be a firefighter, and I wanted to see what it was all about,” she said.

Harbin and her fellow campers got to experience a day in the life of a firefighter Monday by taking part in several activities, such as riding on a fire truck, taking a tour of the station and familiarizing themselves with a firefighter’s gear.

Emily Nowak, 9, said she was especially excited for the first day of camp because of the activities.

“I get to learn how a firefighter does his job, and we get to do a lot of fun things like ride on a fire truck and knock down the cone with a hose,” she said.

Mike Fernandez, a senior firefighter at the station, said the fire hose exercise is one of the most popular activities during the camp.

“This is the best thing,” he said. “They get to squirt water. This is what we like to do too.”

Fernandez worked with teams of two children on the hose at a time, and with his help, each camper got to lead his or her group while trying to knock over a cone.

Investigator Pam King, one of the camp’s coordinators, said most of the week’s activities emphasize teamwork because it is an essential component in firefighting.

“We don’t fight fires alone,” King said.

She said while she hopes the kids have a good time, the goal of the camp is to educate them about fire safety as well as everyday safety, such as how to stay safe while riding a bike.

“Everything that we do has classroom instruction, and it’s enhanced by a skill or activity that will bring home the lesson,” King said. “It is my goal to have children think about what they are doing and think about ‘What if.’”

During the rest of the camp, the children will learn about topics such as fire escape plans, calling 911, bike safety, search and rescues, and water safety.

The camp started in 2002, in the honor of Suffolk fire captain Jeff Messenger, who hoped to start the program before he passed away in 2001.

King said the camps have become so popular that they always fill up quickly. This summer’s installments are no different — all of this year’s sessions are already filled.