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Youth learn firefighting skills at Fire Explorer Summer Camp

By David DeKunder | 502nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs | June 19, 2017

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas --

Firefighters at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston are hoping a camp they are putting on will spark the interest of youngsters who want to learn about firefighting.

Three youths are participating in the Fire Explorer Summer Camp which ran June 12-23 at the JBSA-Fort Sam Houston Fire Station. The camp was taught by eight JBSA Fire Emergency Services firefighters.

The camp is organized and put on by JBSA Fire Emergency Services firefighters, who are volunteering their time as instructors.

“Kids are excited about fire trucks and firefighters,” said Xavier Perea, JBSA Fire Emergency Services station chief at JBSA-Fort Sam Houston. “This gives them an opportunity to see what it’s like to be a firefighter and what the job entails.”

The camp has several activities that give youth the opportunity to experience and learn about firefighting, including how to connect a fire hose to a fire hydrant, extricating people out a vehicle, first aid techniques, how to do CPR, how to an automated external defibrillator machine and raising a fire ladder from a fire engine.

The three youths participating in the camp are Gabriel “Gabe” Martinez, Carlee Arnold and Emma Kibbey.

Kibbey, 14, said she is considering a career in firefighting, which runs in her family. Her aunt is a firefighter in Virginia and a few of her relatives, including her grandparents, have been, or are, firefighters.

“I want to learn more about becoming a firefighter to help people,” Kibbey said.

Martinez, 13, is used to being at fire stations since his father is a firefighter at JBSA-Randolph. He is also considering becoming a firefighter.

“I’ve been thinking about it,” he said. “I’m still young. I’ve got a lot of thinking to do.”

During the third day of the camp, the youth participated in a drill in which they had to perform several tasks while being timed, including extending a hose attached to a fire hydrant, doing chest compressions and CPR on a mannequin and tying a weight onto a rope that went downhill, simulating a roof ventilation situation in which firefighters need to take extra equipment up a building by tying it onto a rope.

In between each task in the drill, the youngsters had to run with unequal weights, simulating the different types of equipment firefighters carry.

Aaron Gaunt, JBSA Fire Emergency Services firefighter and camp instructor, said the purpose of the drill was familiarize the youth with the different tasks firefighters must perform.

“It demonstrates the different types of calls we go on and to be fast and efficient,” Gaunt said.

After completing the drill, the camp participants were then able to climb up a ladder attached to a fire engine near the back of the fire station roof. While going up the fire engine ladder, each of the youngsters was accompanied by a firefighter instructor and wore a harness with a rope, a safety line, attached to it while being pulled by another firefighter positioned on the driveway below.

Arnold, 14, described the experience of going up the ladder as “scary,” since the ladder started shaking as she got closer to the top of it.

But Arnold said all the activities she has participated in the camp have been fun.

“I like all the things (firefighters) do and the tools they use,” Arnold said.

Martinez said climbing up the fire engine ladder was exciting and interesting.

“It’s the coolest thing we’ve done,” Martinez said.

One other thing Martinez liked about the camp was taking apart a self-contained breathing apparatus, a device worn by firefighters to provide breathable air, to learn how it functions and works.

Kibbey said one thing she has learned from the camp is the function of the blue reflectors in the middle of roads and streets. The blue reflectors indicate to fire emergency drivers that a fire hydrant is located on the side of the road.

Jesse Rico, JBSA Fire Emergency Services firefighter and camp instructor, said he has gotten positive feedback from parents of the youth about the camp.

In August, Rico said another Fire Explorer Camp will be started in which youth participants will be given more in-depth firefighting training, including certification in CPR and how to use an automated external defibrillator machine. The camp will be conducted twice a month on Saturdays for one year.

More information on the August Fire Explorer Camp will be forthcoming.

Rico said he wants to grow the Fire Explorer Camp program so it can be available at all JBSA locations.

“Our vision is to start it off here and then have JBSA-Lackland and JBSA-Randolph start their own programs,” Rico said. “For me, it is to help kids find a direction.”

Fire Explorer