Berthoud youngsters learn the ropes at Firefighter for a Day Camp

By Dan Karpiel

The Surveyor

The best way to learn something is to have fun while you are doing it. That was the case for several dozen youngsters at the fourth annual Firefighter for a Day Camp put on at Pioneer Park on Monday and Tuesday by Berthoud Fire Protection District (BFPD).

Both mornings’ groups of kids, who ranged in ages from 5 to 13, learned a wide array of fire-prevention, fire-safety, and evacuation lessons and had a blast while doing it. The young people learned what a day in the life of a firefighter is like and got hands-on experience doing everything from donning the full firefighter gear to practicing extinguishing fires with the large hoses and running an obstacle course.

Photo by Dan Karpiel – Firefighter for a day McKenna

“This camp is about empowering kids to know what to do if there is a fire or fire dangers in the house. Empowering them gives them the confidence to know what to do if something were to happen,” said May Soricelli, public information officer for BFPD.

Firefighter Kyle Stricklin, who serves as the coordinator for the camp, stressed the importance of not just explaining what he and his colleagues do, but affording the youngsters an opportunity to practice it first-hand.

Said Stricklin, “Kids are hands-on; you can tell kids something all day long, but until they’re able to touch it and play with it and do it, then that’s where the connection gets made and that’s the goal of this – have fun and get them to be hands-on and learn something while they’re doing it.”

One of the most valuable lessons the participants learn from the camp, which is free of charge and concludes a pizza lunch, is how to develop a family escape plan and establish a rendezvous point outside the home where everyone can gather in the case of an emergency. The kids learned how to put out grease fires and were instructed to stay low to the ground to avoid inhaling too much smoke should they be caught in a fire.

In addition to learning so many valuable skills and having fun while doing it, the camp’s participants get to experience first-hand what a day in the life of a Berthoud firefighter is all about. As Soricelli explained, “Another benefit is that they get to know the firefighters, and if there ever was an incident the fear factor of seeing them in their bunker gear and masks and all that can really be reduced too. They know they’re the good guys.”

Photo by Dan Karpiel – Firefighter for a day Mack

Engineer Jim Thompson and firefighter Brad Novell gave the campers an up-close look at one of BFPD’s fire engines, allowing the kids to climb into the cab, honk the horn, and even blast the siren a few times. The youngsters learned what all the gadgets and instruments inside and outside of the truck do and got to pick up some of the various tools the firefighters use, not only in extinguishing flames, but rescuing people and providing various forms of first aid. Many of the participants were able to put on the full (adult-sized) firefighter bunker gear and eight-pound helmet.

At another station in the park campers were allowed to operate the fire hose and played a game where a soccer ball was placed a top a cone and the goal was to aim the hose, with its high-pressure water, at the correct height and distance to knock the ball off. The kids, after dressing in a youth-sized firefighter outfit, dragged a dummy up and down a hill, simulating rescuing an unconscious person, and then completed an obstacle course.

“The biggest thing is getting the kids out and having fun and taking what we do and putting it on a kids’ level, a level that they can understand and they’re able to enjoy and have fun with it,” Stricklin said. “They’re really understanding what we’re telling them and what we’re trying to instill in them and how to react if there ever is a situation. Being able to see what we deal with and what we’re using if they’re ever in bad situation, things they can do if they’re ever in a fire, and also getting them hands-on and getting to experience our day-to-day operations.”

“Chief (Stephen Charles) loves putting this on for the community. It’s a way to give back and says, ‘We’re here for you guys.’ We see people on their worst days, and this is an opportunity to have a good day with these kids, show them there’s good things happening in their town and hopefully some of them will be inspired to be a firefighter one day. They can see that this is a special job, that it has importance in the community and that they do stuff that matters,” Soricelli explained. 

Information on next year’s camp as well as all things related to BFPD can be found at www.berthoudfire.org.

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