July 14, 2011
Learning to save lives
Camp teaches Dryden youth ins and outs of firefighting
Joe McIntyre/staff photographer
From left, Bailee Cotterill, 10, Rachel Carpenter, 9, and Taylor Hurd, 11, lift a mock plane crash victim onto a waiting rescue vehicle Wednesday during a Junior Fire Academy in Dryden.
DRYDEN — Junior firefighters divided into small teams and scoured a wooded area Wednesday, hoping to find at least one reported survivor of a plane crash.
They found him within several minutes, bloody and writhing in pain with gruesome injuries from a long fall into the woods. A broken bone protruded from his forearm.
“It’s a bad dream!” the injured man shouted, along with other delusional rantings.
That “victim” was Frank Palmer of the Dryden Fire Department. But his elaborate makeup and rantings were almost like the real thing, fire officials said.
Fire Capt. Adam Talbot then walked the children through the proper methods of loading the “victim” onto a stretcher.
This week was the third year of the Junior Firefighter Academy held at the fire department. Twenty-two local youths — ranging from ages 9 to 16 — participated in the weeklong program. It wraps up on Friday.
The children learned different aspects of fire and rescue techniques hands-on each day of the week.
Talbot said the department strived to be authentic, but still keep it fun. During the mock search and rescue, firefighters leading groups would radio in updates to other searchers. Youths would listen to the updates and group leaders would coordinate where to next focus rescue efforts.
The most popular exercise this year was junior firefighters practice shooting the fire hose and dragging the hose out of the fire engine, Talbot said.
“We keep it at a very low PSI, almost at idle speed, whereas if it were a house fire it would be up to 120 PSI,” Talbot said, referring to pounds per square inch. “We also do a little bit of how rural fire supply works, because not every place has a fire hydrant right next to it.”
Firefighters use special tanks, called ponds, when fighting fires in rural areas. They fill in water from the nearest available water source in those cases.
Some other activities included how to dress in firefighting gear in a hurry, proper use of a fire extinguisher, and discussing the history of why firefighting techniques work.
Last year, firefighters showed children how to search for a person inside a smoke-filled environment.
Firefighters who supervised the weeklong program hoped the lessons help the youths become an asset, should they ever run into a real life-and-death situation in the future.
“If they ever come on the scene of a car accident, someone’s going to see one eventually, they might have the knowledge to stop and get out and hold someone’s neck,” Talbot said. “It could save their life if someone’s got a damaged spine. Try to help out.”
Another goal, Talbot said, is to instill an interest in the firefighting profession.
“If anyone wants to come back when they’re 16 and really be part of the fire department, we certainly need members as every one does,” he said.
The junior firefighter academy has averaged nearly 25 children the past three years and some have participated more than one year.
“By the end of the week, 95 percent of them don’t want to leave,” Talbot said.
The program runs hand-in-hand with Dryden Youth Services, a local recreation program. Fees for that program are an optional $15, but there is no additional cost to attend the junior fire academy.
There is no additional cost for manpower to run the junior fire academy, since Dryden is a volunteer department, Talbot said.
Firefighters hope for another successful week next summer.
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