CHICAGO (CBS) – The camp in the suburbs is literally a garbage fire, a deliberately blazing mess. Morning Insider Lauren Victory takes us to Romeoville to explain.
“We will just win. This is our strategy. We’ll just win,” said 13-year-old Reuben Roberts ahead of a friendly competition at camp involving a trash can set on fire.
“Just put it out. Just try to put it out,” Robert said of his mindset during the test, which involved spraying a fire hose to put out the flames.
The type of teenage attention is needed for the real problems that firefighters face. The idea behind Romeoville Youth Fire Camp is to show children all sorts of scenarios.
“I thought: “Wow! It’s crazy,” because I’ve never done this before,” 10-year-old Reagan McNair said after putting out the pickup truck flames in her turn.
Kids ages 10 to 13 started the week-long session with the basics: old-school firefighting by passing buckets of water. They then visited the younger children at another camp to share their new knowledge.
“We taught 7 and how to do ‘Stop, Fall and Roll’ if they are on fire; so later in life, if they have a house fire, they can get out safely,” explained 13-year-old Emily Rossio.
Battalion Commander Mike Spradau knew that only a demonstration of fire fighting equipment could lose the crowd. He will have to keep everything under control in order to attract vacationers.
“We were a little nervous when the camp was just starting. We thought: “How are you? They are from 10 to 13. We don’t have phones,” Spradau said.
Keeping their attention was no problem, thanks to plenty of (incendiary) entertainment and the appointment of McNair as her team leader.
“I love watching everyone, making sure they line up and don’t fool around,” she said.
Romeoville Fire is one of several departments currently short of vacancies. In recent months, 10 out of 12 part-time jobs have been vacant, meaning camp is about more than just fun and fire safety.
“One of the things that we came up with as leaders is that maybe we can start recruiting these kids at an early age,” said Spradau, who hopes that providing this free camp will ignite a passion for public safety in kids at years ahead.
“I might think about actually becoming one of the [a firefighter]”, Roberts said in his interview with us.
Recruitment efforts must wait a bit to bear fruit. For most firefighter positions in Illinois, males/females must be 21 years of age.