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Dozens graduate junior fire academy
6 Jr Fire Academy pic
Cadets cool off after a week of fire and emergency training during Dawson County Emergency Services Junior Fire Academy. Now in its third year, the academy graduated 44 young cadets Friday. - photo by Michele Hester Dawson Community News

Dressed in full turnout gear, young cadets in training maneuvered their way through a dark maze, used the Jaws of Life to extricate a victim from a vehicle and extinguished a forest fire.

For a fighter, it's all in day's work. For cadets in Dawson County Emergency Service's Junior Fire Academy, it's work, but it's also a whole lot of fun.

"I had so much fun this week," said 12-year-old Adrianne Pittman, who was among nearly four dozen graduates to complete the weeklong camp last Friday.

Designed to give youngsters a working knowledge of fire service, junior fire academy offers an introduction to the field with hands-on exercises that focus on leadership, safety and a basic understanding of what's going on when they see a fire truck going down the road.

Assistant Chief Danny Speaks said he saw cadets come out of their shells and develop as leaders last week.

"I think in a short time frame it's letting them understand what leadership is," he said.

More than a few of the cadets now say they're considering a career in the fire service, a goal of the department's since beginning the program three years ago.

"It's hard work to be a firefighter," said 12-year-old Brandi Jo Hafermalz. "They risk their lives to save people, and some of them do this as volunteers. I just think that's great."

Camp instructor Brian Fox said he was amazed at the amount of information the cadets were able to retain in just a week.

"You can ask them pretty much anything about the fire service now and they know it," Fox said. "They have done an excellent job learning, competing, performing and taking care of each other."