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Youngsters beat the heat at fire marshal camp

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Deborah Griffin

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

The heat was on at Greenville Fire-Rescue’s Station 6 Tuesday — and not just because the National Weather Service issued an advisory.

The heat index rose to over 108 degrees.

Students in the department’s Junior Fire Marshal Academy still yelled and jumped up and down in encouragement, while comrades competed in fire safety and rescue challenges .

The drills included donning turnout gear, chopping with a mallet and knocking a traffic cone down with high pressure water hose.

Each of the 24 children, whose ages ranged from 8 to 11, did their best to be the fastest.

According to Life Safety Educator Rebekah Thurston, they were learning skills it takes to be a firefighter.

“They all did such a great job — they all finished,” she said at the East 10th Street station house.

The heat added intensity, just as in a real emergency.

This is the department’s fifth year to provide the one-week day camp.

“It is hot every year, but this is the first time we’ve had a heat advisory,” she said.

“We made sure they are drinking a lot of water and Gatorade.”

Today’s activities will provide campers some relief as they head to the Greenville Community Pool to learn about water safety.

“This whole week is aimed at teaching life safety skills — things they will use in everyday life,” said Thurston. “They are learning things that will help keep them and their family safe.”

Other skills children will hone include CPR, first aid and bike and pedestrian safety. They also will learn about smoke alarms, how to use fire extinguishers and what to do in an emergency.

The free camp, each day from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., is for rising fourth- through sixth-graders.

Tuesday, children discovered what it is like to hastily dress in turnout gear and be ready for an emergency. The skills they competed in were similar to the physical fitness test given to people interested in becoming fire fighters, the Combat Challenge, on a smaller scale.

Thurston said the camp is one of the most exciting weeks of the year at the station, but is also one of the most exhausting. Much of the exhaustion has to do with the heat.

Firefighters often work overtime to help with the camp, along with volunteers and staff.

“It is really special to see the interaction between firefighters and the the kids and see the bonds that are formed,” Thurston said.

She said there are some challenges children might be hesitant to try, but are usually persuaded.

“We try and create a culture of love and support here,” she said. “We teach them about the brotherhood among the fire fighters and how they are all like a big family.”

Children are taught to treat each other and the leaders with respect and to respect the station’s property.

“We teach them through example. We all treat each other that way here — in a loving and accepting way,” she added.

The children today also will meet an arson dog, used in fire investigations. They will learn about weather safety in addition to water safety skills.

On Thursday campers will get to go through a new inflatable fire safety house, learn escape drills, learn kitchen and cooking safety tips and make a paracord bracelet, she said.

Friday will culminate with a graduation ceremony for family and friends. Children will have the opportunity to show off their newly acquired skills and will receive a medal and a certificate.

Afterward, the children and their families will share a cookout with firefighters.

The Junior Fire Marshal Academy is held each summer and enrollment is limited. The camp is available on a first-come, first-serve basis, beginning in the spring.

Contact Deborah Griffin at dgriffin@reflector.com.