July 19—Dressed in helmets, gloves and large coats, several boys held a thick orange hose that snaked across a gravel lot from a fire truck to a smoking shed outside Gamewell Fire Department.
Nearby, under a tent, several other boys watched their friends practice extinguishing a fire.
Luke Roberts, 11, said he doesn't use the word "firefighters." Instead he calls the men and women who fight fires and provide medical help in emergencies heroes.
"It is hard work. It's pretty tough to do," he said. "(They) risk their lives to save others. They're just, like, good people."
Roberts and the other children were part of Gamewell Fire Department's Junior Fire Academy, a summer day camp held for the first time this year to teach children about firefighting.
Chief Keith Owens said that fewer people are volunteering as firefighters, a nationwide problem, and he hopes exposing children to the thrill and rigors of firefighting might help address the issue locally.
"We're seeing a shortage of not only volunteers but paid people who are wanting to make a career in emergency services," Owens said. "It also helps get them outside."
Madison Georgia, 12, said she would like to be a volunteer firefighter someday.
"I really like helping people," she said, and she found some of the activities at the academy exciting.
"I think it was really fun going in the fire trucks, just riding in them. I really liked going fast," she said. "Pretty much the entire week has been nonstop having fun."
Dora Haghman, 13, said that she is interested in medical work more than firefighting. She said she came to the camp because her father was a firefighter.
"I figured if I came it would maybe interest me more and give me a career choice," she said.
Lexie Vines, 13, said she has wanted to be a nurse who works on medical helicopters since she was 10 or 11, after a friend was in a serious car wreck and had to be flown to a hospital. The opportunity to see and learn about a medical helicopter at the academy furthered her interest.
"I want to be able to save someone's life one day," she said.
Ethan Story, 11, said he came to the camp because his father is a firefighter, and he hopes to someday volunteer at Gamewell Fire Department.
"You get to spray fire and help people," he said.
In addition to learning to fight a fire—the most exciting part to most of the children—attendees have the opportunity to learn about the history of the fire service, safety, first aid and CPR, emergency communications, ambulances, the forest service and wildfires, and other firefighting techniques and topics.
The camp, which was free, filled up quickly, with around 25 children from throughout Caldwell County, Owens said.