MORGANTOWN, W.VA. — While many summer camps conjure up images of camping, outdoor activities and classes, the West Virginia University Fire Service Extension is offering a camp for brave teens to address a shortage of volunteer firefighters and cultivate the next generation of emergency responders.
At the Junior Firefighter Camp, under the direction of trained professionals, campers receive hands-on fire and emergency services training and education on the importance of serving their communities. The combination of experiential learning and leaning on their fellow firefighters to complete tasks builds a bond between campers as they learn what’s needed to serve their communities with their head and heart.
A shortage of volunteer firefighters is not only an issue for communities around West Virginia, but across the nation. Approximately 90% 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.
“Campers can 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 being leaders with their peers,” said Mark Lambert, director, WVU Fire Service Extension. “Our goal is to develop long-term community leaders who can serve in many capacities.”
Scheduled for Saturday, June 15 through Thursday, June 20 at the State Fire Academy at WVU Jackson’s Mill in Weston, this annual camp places youths in the action to prepare campers to be future firefighters and emergency operations personnel.
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.
“This camp was created 13 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 in serving early on, they will serve for a lifetime.”
With campers previously hailing from more than half of the states, and even Puerto Rico, they 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 $325 which includes meals, lodging and six required camp T-shirts, and scholarships are available to those who qualify.
The deadline for priority registration is Tuesday, May 28. A $50 late fee applies to those registering after the deadline.
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 .