A shortage of volunteer firefighters is not only an issue for communities around West Virginia, but across the nation. Approximately 90 percent of the state’s residents rely on volunteer fire departments, and as the number of volunteer firefighters shrinks, concerns for our communities’ safety are on the rise. That’s where the West Virginia University Extension Service Junior Firefighter Camp comes in.
Scheduled for Saturday, June 16 through Thursday, June 21 at the State Fire Academy at WVU Jackson’s Mill in Weston, this annual camp places youths at the heart of the action to prepare the next generation of firefighters and emergency operations personnel.
Under the direction of trained professionals, campers receive hands-on fire and emergency services training and education on the importance of serving their communities.
“Campers earn certifications in CPR and first aid, which helps prepare them for roles within emergency services, as well as other jobs. But they also learn about teamwork, discipline and camaraderie,” said Mark Lambert, director, WVU Fire Service Extension. “Our goal is to develop long-term community leaders.”
Each day, campers learn about a different facet of fire and emergency response. From live fire training to special rescue operations, the curriculum exposes campers to a wide range of scenarios to help further develop their skill sets. Other instructional topics include hoseline and fireground procedures, operating rescue vehicle equipment and urban and rural water supply.
In addition to the practical training, this unique experience builds campers’ respect for their communities and encourages them to explore their interests while also giving back.
“This camp was created 12 years ago, in an attempt to get youths interested in firefighting and volunteering to help their communities,” Lambert said. “We’re firm believers that if we can get them interested early on, they will serve for a lifetime.”
With campers from more than half of the states, and even Puerto Rico, in attendance, campers have the opportunity to meet and build relationships with others from various places, interest areas and backgrounds. One of the only of its kind in the country, the camp’s influence stretches far beyond West Virginia’s state lines.
Registration is still open for those who are interested. To participate, campers must be ages 14 through 17. Tuition costs are $295 which includes meals, lodging and six required camp T-shirts, and scholarships are available to those who qualify.
The deadline to register is Tuesday, May 29.
For more information about the camp, contact Fire Service Extension at 304-269-0875 or visit extension.wvu.edu/community-business-safety/fire-service/junior-firefighter-camp .
The WVU Extension Service provides educational opportunities to local communities through offices in all 55 West Virginia counties. WVU Extension Service’s programs are accomplished in partnership with individuals, families, businesses, civic groups and governmental organizations statewide and throughout the nation.