|Lanesborough Students Learn Firefighting Firsthand|
|By Andy McKeever, iBerkshires Staff|
06:07PM / Friday, July 27, 2012
|Children hold the hose for the final demonstration in putting out a structure fire.|
LANESBOROUGH, Mass. — Thirty elementary school children spent the last two days learning how to use the Jaws of Life, perform water rescues and put out fires.
The Fire Department set pallets on fire at Skyline Country Club and the children piled into the trucks to go put it out.
It was all part of the Volunteer Fire Department's fourth annual fire safety camp. With their largest group yet, firefighters mixed classroom and hands-on activities to teach children what to do in an emergency — and what they do in an emergency.
"This is the biggest year. We actually had to turn kids away," said Deputy Chief Charles "Butch" Garrity. "We try to make it educational as well as hands on."
The department wanted to limit participation to 25 but with the enrollment numbers so high, they let some additional pupils in.
"Thirty fills up this room pretty well. If we get more, the program will fall apart," Garrity said.
The free camp started Thursday and ended on Friday with a graduation ceremony. The children spent about half the time in the classroom and they other half watching demonstrations ranging from thermal imaging mazes to the Jaws of Life to the final one of putting out a structure fire.
Prior to Friday's graduation, the department set pallets in the shape of an A-frame house on fire at Skyline Country Club. The air whistle went off and the children piled into the fire trucks to help put out the fire by holding the hose.
"I hope that maybe in a few years, they'll join the Fire Department," Garrity said.
The program was started in 2008 after Garrity's son said he wanted to share what he learned from his father with his classmates. Firefighter Kirsten Hoffstedt quickly said he would help and from there the program began to come together.
"It's grown every year," Hoffstedt said. "The kids love the interaction."
Above: children take turns holding the hose's nozzle. Below: The Jaws of Life is used to take the doors and roof off of a car. Cutters were used to pull the windshield out.
More photos can be found here.
The first year had 19 children; each year more have enrolled and more organizations helped out. This year, state police performed a crime scene investigation for the campers, Village Ambulance demonstrated fire aid and the state Department of Conservation and Recreation taught about woods safety (which may have come in handy because on Friday, a man reported a bear trying to cross the road right next to the fire station).
"I like to think that we add content every year," Garrity said. "We're talking about expanding it and adding a third day."
However, volunteers are taking time off from work to run the camp so scheduling a third day may be difficult, he said.
"Even if we don't add another day, maybe an extra hour," Hoffstedt said.
One of the items they added since the first year was vehicle extrication with the Jaws of Life. Firefighter Tim Sayers, whose family owns Sayers Auto Wrecking, leads a demonstration on a car donated by the company.
"It just seems that we are doing more and more car accidents and these kids will likely get into one in their life," Garrity said.
While the department adds depth and content, the goal is to settle on a program that can be repeated every year, Garrity said. That goal may have originated when they began organizing the first camp realized there were no previous programs to build on.
Garrity was later asked to give a presentation at a conference in North Carolina about the Lanesborough camp. He said about 30 departments heard his presentation and about a third of them have since started their own camps.
While the fire house may have been full of children ages 9 through 12 for the last two days, the department had a plan in place in case of a call came in.
"We have volunteers lined up. We know who is staying and going," Hoffstedt said.
On Friday, that plan went into place. After extinguishing the fire at the Skyline, a call came in and half the firefighters jumped in engines and took off to the scene.