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Junior Fire Academy teaches kids life skills, safety
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Prevention Director Chris Archer helps a fire cadet aim the firehose during a game of water tug-of-war at the fire station June 21. - photo by Jessica Taylor

There’s more to being a firefighter than just extinguishing fires, as nearly 30 kids learned last week at the eighth annual Junior Fire Academy.

Dawson County Emergency Services hosted its annual Junior Fire Academy from June 18-22 at Fire Station No. 7 next to Dawson County Middle School. Rising and current middle schoolers had the chance to hang out with firefighters and have fun.

“The kids had a blast. They’re getting lots of learning along with some fun,” Prevention Officer Chris Archer said. “Not only do we get to reach out and show them how we act as firefighters and teach them some of the skills we have, but we also got to incorporate some life safety messages and keep them safer as well.”

On Monday, participants toured the fire station and got an overview of the firetrucks, ambulances and the day-to-day operations of a fire station. With the basic foundation covered, the rest of the week was dedicated to more in-depth activities such as creating home escape plans, learning CPR and playing with firehoses.

“We try to make it learning and mainly fun. And I think one of the things most of them will never say but they really enjoy making a lot of friends,” Lt. Jeff Banks said.

Friendship and fun wasn’t all the week had to offer as Banks and Archer wanted kids to be able to take home valuable life safety lessons that could save someone’s life.

Each camper participated in a CPR class where they learned CPR for both adults and infants. They also practiced using an automated external defibrillator, or AED, in their CPR training.

The ‘Stop the Bleed’ program was also an important initiative that Banks and Archer wanted the kids to learn so that they know how to stop someone from bleeding out before help arrives in an emergency.

Kids also participated in the EDITH program where they drew up exit drills in their homes and brought their plans to show Archer the next day.

Outside of the safety lessons, the campers got to practice quick dressing in firefighter gear, rolling hoses and even put out small doll house fires with spray bottles.

Many JFA cadets couldn’t pinpoint their favorite activity from the week. Peyton Lindsey, 12, said her favorite part was rolling the hoses. It was her first time at the academy and said she plans to come back next year.

Hayden Reidling, 11, has been at the academy for three years now and loved every second of it. When asked what his favorite part of the week has been, he simply said “just learning about the firefighters.”

On Thursday, firefighters and kids alike couldn’t hide their smiles as they wielded giant firehoses and sprayed at a barrel in a tug-of-war style game where they tried to push the barrel into their opponent’s territory.

“As cheesy as it sounds, it’s the kids,” said Banks about his favorite part of the week. “Inside I’m probably as big or bigger kid than they are. Like Tuesday during lunch we were up there playing tag and I was running right up with them.”

Banks has been running the JFA since his daughter was in middle school and says hearing how the academy has impacted children and their parents is what makes it worth it.

“That’s why I do it,” Banks said.