Junior Firefighter Camp Lets Kids Reach New Heights

Local 2020 Rescues Annual Event from Budget Cuts

2013-07-12T00:45:00Z Junior Firefighter Camp lets kids reach new heightsBrian Bullock/bbullock@santamariatimes.com Santa Maria Times

Seventy-five feet nearly straight up probably never looked so high to 8-year-old Owen Rich, one of 35 local children participating this week in the Santa Maria Fire Department’s Junior Firefighter Camp.

The 110-foot ladder on the department’s truck stretched high enough into the sky that it looked like Owen and the other kids could reach out and touch one of the fluffy white clouds that floated overhead Wednesday.

“It was kind of wobbly when we got to the top,” Owen said of his long climb up the ladder. “He said it was stable, though.”  “He” was Capt. Leonard Champion, who accompanied Owen and several other campers up the ladder that’s designed to reach the top of the Union Plaza, Santa Maria’s tallest building.  Owen said excitedly he’s been higher before, but only in a building or an airplane.

Ian Danhmen, another 8-year-old camper, said he went 180 feet up at Knott’s Berry Farm, but quickly added he specifically wore his hiking boots expecting the tall climb.

The members of Santa Maria Firefighters Local 2020 rescued the Junior Firefighters Camp this year after it was eliminated in 2012 due to city budget cuts.  The members donated their time to teach the children firefighting and safety skills during the four-day camp.  Campers learned first-aid, how to properly use a fire extinguisher, search-and-rescue techniques, repelling and ladder truck operations on Wednesday at Station 2 on West Carmen Lane.

On Thursday, the camp moved to Station 6 at the Santa Maria Public Airport where they got demonstrations from the Cal Star helicopter crew, AMR ambulance company and the department’s own Aircraft Rescue Fire fighting, better known as the ARFF truck.

“It’s great to give the kids an idea of what we do on a day-to-day basis,” said camp coordinator and acting engineer Matt Luis, who has been involved in the camp in each of its 13 years. “They think we’re out fighting fires all daylong and that’s not the case.”

In addition to fighting fires, department personnel answer calls for medical assistance calls, which account for more than 63 percent of their calls, clean and maintain equipment, and this week do public relations with some of the city’s youngest citizens.

“This is great. To see the expression on their faces when they do this training is great,” Luis said. “It’s great to work with the kids and gain some of those social skills if you don’t have kids.”

For the children, who range from 8 to 12 years old, the camp allows them to reach new heights. Just ask Owen who made the 75-foot climb and descent in just four minutes.  “All of the people look like their teensy, tiny little gnats,” he said describing the view from the top.


July 12, 2013  Brian Bullock/bbullock@santamariatimes.com