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Academy covers basics of firefighting
Junior Fire Academy camper Mark Fischer, 13, emerges from a smoke-filled room after participating in a simulation in which he rescued a baby. - photo by Megan Reed

CUMMING — Over the past month, local middle-schoolers simulated the rescue of a baby from a smoky room, navigated a dark maze, rode a zipline and learned CPR.

They gained the experience during the Junior Fire Academy, which the Forsyth County Fire Department holds every summer to give seventh- and eighth-graders a look at what it takes to be a firefighter.

Twenty-one students participated in the camp last week. Many others attended a two-day camp the previous week.

Laura Coleman, a fire prevention safety officer with the department, said the camp is designed to show students all aspects of the firefighting field.

“They toured [the 911 call center], they toured Station 12 … we were able to do an engine ride-around in Coal Mountain Park,” she said. “They did pretty much fire science in the smoke house we have.”

The smoke house, which is at the department’s training center on Settingdown Road, features three floors and a maze for firefighters to practice navigating small, dark spaces, as well as a search-and-rescue room.

The building can be filled with smoke to simulate a burning structure.

Madison Mauldin, 13, was inspired by her parents, both former firefighters, to attend the camp and learn more about the profession.

She said her favorite part of the experience was the dark maze, which the students crawl through with the help of a partner and firefighters and while wearing a bike helmet.

“When you go in, you [need to] feel around for everything, or you’ll drop head first,” she said.

Her partner in the maze, Carol Drake, also 13, said the pair worked together to navigate the maze’s many turns.

“We have to tell each other the turns and what we find,” she said.

Drake, who also participated in the camp last year, aspires to become an emergency medical technician. She said the skills learned at the camp, including bandaging injuries and performing CPR, would help her toward that goal.

Another participant, 12-year-old Thomas Miller said he is considering a career as a firefighter. The camp taught him how firefighters approach emergency situations and cooperate when on the job.

“I wanted to know what a firefighter did in the fire and how they help each other out,” he said.

Applications for next summer’s program will be opening in the spring.