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Feeling the heat: Forsyth County Fire Department hosts annual junior fire academy
Pranav Batehu shields his face from the intense heat put off during the smoke and fire science demonstration at the 7th Annual Junior Fire Department last week. - photo by Bradley Wiseman

Studio Forsyth: Kids get to feel the heat at the Forsyth County Fire Department's Junior Fire Academy

By: Bradley Wiseman

Last week, local youngsters participated in the 7th annual Forsyth County Junior Fire Academy, learning about fire safety, teamwork and what it’s truly like to be a firefighter when you grow up.

According to Division Chief Jason Shivers, spokesman of the Forsyth County Fire Department, the annual event is regularly in high demand from the local community, and this year was no different, with a full class of 31 “campers” in attendance.

“This a great opportunity, every summer, for area upcoming [seventh-] and [eighth-] graders to join in a week-long program that gives them a down and dirty, but fun, orientation to the fire service and lets them learn what life is like as a firefighter,” Shivers said Thursday, from the field of the Forsyth County Fire Department training grounds.

“At the same time, they learn great safety tips, a lot of respect for fire, the fire service and public safety in general, and we also focus a lot on being good solid Americans and good members of the community.”

Shivers said that the program focuses on giving the campers classroom instruction on different areas of the fire service, and then lets them go out in the training ground to practice what they have learned in a safe environment.

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Ryan Crews moves the high-pressure hose to put out the fire in each window at the 7th Annual Forsyth County Junior Fire Academy last week. - photo by Bradley Wiseman

The program, according to Shivers, shows campers fire suppression techniques, the science of fire, victim removal, basic medical training and vehicle extrication. He added that by having the event at the training grounds, campers can use the same scenarios as local firefighters train on and put hands on some of the tools they use on a daily basis.

He said that practically every one of the campers displays energy and an eagerness to learn that amazes them every year.

“What we've learned over the years is that these kids sign up for this program voluntarily, really want to be here. We never have a child that comes through that really just doesn't want to be a part of the program,” he said. “And by the end of the week, they're ready to be firefighters. They are ready to jump on board as an option for their career sometime in the future."

One of the participants, Jack Whobrey, said after participating in the program over the last three years he is sure that he wants a career in firefighting.

“In couple of years when I get older, I think that's the path I'm going to take,” Whobrey said.

Since Whobrey has been at the event for the last three years, he has risen to a position of responsibility at the program, earning the rank of battalion chief.

He said that of the many activities and events the campers participate in during the program, his favorite is entering the different training buildings for different scenarios.

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Campers simulate working the extrication and rescue of objects falling on top of another person at the 7th Annual Forsyth County Junior Fire Academy last week. - photo by Bradley Wiseman

"My favorite thing so far this year is probably search and rescue up in the tower,” Whobrey said. “I just love being able to pull people out and simulate going into a dark, scary building and being able to work with that.”

Shivers said that beyond the campers’ enthusiasm for the program, he has seen the event grow into a fun, sought-after event for the firefighters and training staff to participate in.

“It's a real honor for us to put this program on,” he said. “… And we never have any shortage of firefighters being involved and wanting to take part in it, because it’s so darn fun.”

He encouraged anyone interested in the program for their youngster to look for notices of enrollment next spring.

“We expect, just like this year and the years past, for next year’s program to be in high demand," he said.

According to the application for the Junior Fire Academy, interested applicants must reside in Forsyth County and be a rising seventh- or eighth-grader.

More information about this program can be found at forsythco.com.