Rock climbing, auto extrication and first aid are just a few of the skills some Comox Valley youth learned earlier this week – along with how to put out fires.
Instead of relaxing during their spring break, 36 students from the three secondary schools in the Comox Valley spent Sunday to Wednesday at the Comox Fire Hall for the 2012 Firefighter Youth Camp.
Made up of 24 guys and 12 girls, the group of teens worked hard during the camp, putting in long days and sleeping at the Comox Recreation Centre across the road from the fire hall, according to Comox fire chief Gord Schreiner,
“They’re working for about 13 hours a day in this type of training,” Schreiner said Tuesday. “This is a workload that they’re not used to – this is twice what a school day is.”
Along with training exercises like putting out burning cars, entering the burn building, and suiting up in firefighting gear, a few lucky students got to go out with the fire crew when real emergency calls came in to the fire hall, which Schreiner said was certainly “exciting” for the firefighters in training.
The youth were divided into three groups when camp started on Sunday with a mix of students from each secondary school to promote growth and bonding, according to Schreiner.
“It’s really neat seeing the bonding going on, you know, the new friends; these are people they hadn’t known two or three days ago, but usually we find at the end of the camp, they’re best friends,” he said.
Grade 12 Mark R. Isfeld Secondary student Adam Lariviere said the crew he’s in is ” really tight now,” and although the camp was challenging, it was worth the effort.
“It’s been tough, it’s been tiring but it’s been a really great experience and it’s been a lot of fun,” said Lariviere. I’ve gained “a lot of leadership skills, lots of confidence — newfound confidence — (and) some new life skills from the firefighting field that I think I might use in my career further on.”
Grade 10 Highland Secondary student Ginger Long already went through a semester-long program related to firefighting and wanted to learn more skills in this camp.
“I was considering this as a career so I wanted to try this out and see what other things I could learn,” said Long, adding that repelling down the five-storey tower was her favourite activity during the camp. “It was the thing farthest out of my comfort zone so it was really nice to try something like that.”
Schreiner noted that 18 volunteer firefighters had to be on site at all times during the camp, making the ratio of students to firefighters 2:1 for safety reasons. Firefighters from Courtenay, Cumberland, Oyster River and 19 Wing fire departments all came to Comox to help out.
He also pointed out that community support was integral to the camp’s success, noting grocery stores and local restaurants donated food and catering services.
“We have, just a ton of support from the local businesses,” said Schreiner.