Thirty-five teens from across Snohomish County are getting the rare opportunity to spend this week immersing themselves (often literally) in the world of firefighting, thanks to South Snohomish Fire’s annual Kids Fire Camp program.
Administered through Lynnwood Parks and Recreation, the camp itself is run and staffed by South County fire fighters, all of whom volunteer their time without pay to help mentor kids while introducing them to some of the special skills that firefighters use every day on the job.
Skills like handling a high-pressure fire hose, securing victims to stretchers quickly and moving them out of harm’s way, and learning proper fire extinguisher technique, life-saving CPR and the fastest, most efficient way to get the proper equipment staged and ready in an emergency.
“I’ve been doing Fire Camp for two years now,” said Firefigher Dani Devos, a 10-year veteran. “I absolutely love it. We work throughout the year planning out the program. It is so incredibly gratifying to watch these kids who start the week as total strangers come together as a team by week’s end. Their enthusiasm is totally infectious. I really wish I had something like this when I was a kid.
“All the firefighters here today volunteer their time because they simply get so much satisfaction out of working with these kids,” she continued. “I was supposed to be working today, but got a colleague to cover my shift so I could come here instead.”
Alex Bonham lives in Edmonds. He graduated this year from Madrona K-8 and is looking forward to September when he’ll start his freshman year as a Meadowdale Maverick.
“I came to Fire Camp because I wanted to widen my horizons about what I want to do,” he said. “Both my grandfather and great-grandfather were firefighters, and that’s definitely an option for me. So far I’m really loving this, and hope to come back next year.”
Holden Riggs of Lynnwood will be starting sixth grade at Terrace Park Elementary this fall. He sees firefighting as way to serve his community.
“My dream is to always be helpful,” he said. “I like helping people; it’s just who I am. Being a firefighter or a police officer seems like a really good way to do that.”
Meredith Camacho of Lynnwood is a Fire Camp veteran.
“This is my third year at Fire Camp,” she said. “I’ve done all the activities, but my favorite is the bucket brigade. It teaches a lot about teamwork.”
If Fire Camp sounds like it’s for you, you’ll have to wait till next year.
“We do this just once a year,” said firefighter AJ Johnson, one of the volunteer instructors. “Signups usually start around May, and we get a fair number of repeat kids each year.”
The camp costs $150 per camper, but scholarships are available through the South County Fire 1 Foundation. According to South County fire spokesperson Leslie Hynes, about half of the participants attend on scholarship.
For more information, check the South County Fire Kids Fire Camp website here.
— Story and photos by Larry Vogel