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Sandy Journal

Sandy kids step into firefighters’ boots

Aug 29, 2017 04:36PM ● By Jana Klopsch

Junior firefighters get the run-down on the inner workings of an ambulance. (Keyra Kristoffersen/City Journals)

By Keyra Kristoffersen | [email protected]

Sandy Fire Station 31 hosted kids from around Sandy and the Salt Lake Valley for the semiannual Jr. Firefighter Academy. 

“We saw that there was an opportunity during the summertime to be able to get kids to come to the fire station and learn about firefighting as well as teach them about fire prevention,” said Battalion Chief Robert DeKorver.

Twice a year in June and August, 26 children ages 8–11 from around the valley have the opportunity to spend three days learning about how the fire department works, from daily schedules and how 911 works to prevention and safety, such as how to avoid smoke inhalation by crawling underneath it. 

The day camp is in its third year and was originally patterned after Sandy City’s Jr. Police Academy. The program began by admitting 20 kids and has since grown to accommodate 26. They’ve also added other features, such as inviting Salt Lake Dispatch to explain how 911 works, when kids should call it and what’s expected of them when they go along with the Zero Fatalities Movement to talk about seatbelt safety. 

An arson dog is also brought in so the children can learn about fire accelerants and how the dogs are used to help determine how fires start. While the fire department has always been associated with the spotted Dalmatian, DeKorver says Labradors are more popular now. 

“They love the dog and they love getting a ride in the fire engine, because how many kids get the opportunity to ride in a fire engine?” said DeKorver.

The University of Utah Burn Center also sent Danielle Westbroek, a nurse at the burn center for 14 years, to explain kitchen and bathroom safety and how to prevent scald injuries. She’s hoping to bring more awareness to the fact that hot liquids burn just like fire does. 

“We looked at kids in this age group and saw what the number one way they’re getting scalded on was Top Ramen, getting it out of the microwave, so why not bring in an expert that can talk about that?” said Lenore Corey, who coordinates the academy every summer. 

This was the first time the burn center had been invited to participate in this program, though they do attend a number of safety fairs and other events. Westbroek said she’s happy to be a part of it because she looked at it as an opportunity to put herself out of a job.

“If we can prevent burn injuries, especially in the kids, I’d be happy to pack up and close down the burn center,” said Westbroek.

Some of the activities include riding on the fire engine, dressing up in firefighter’s gear, touring the firehouse and learning how to bucket brigade and use the hoses. 

“It’s fun to see the kids that are real quiet and shy that first couple of days to see how competitive they get,” said Corey.

Each of the six camps that have been scheduled were filled to capacity quickly. Some of the kids had even been to the camp several times and a few who passed the age limit, like Mady Norris, came back to help out. 

Her duties included ensuring the children stayed only in the designated areas and helping to play games to keep them engaged. 

“It’s going really well,” said Norris.

Corey and her assistant, Kimberly Hornberger, spoke about the importance of having a family safety plan and doing fire drills at home so everyone knows rules and escape plans, while also resolving concerns about the safety of pets should a fire break out. 

“It’s a lot of work, but a lot of fun,” said Corey. “It’s fun to see them learn things and enjoy this.”

Currently, Sandy City is the only city in the Salt Lake Valley to host a Jr. Firefighter Academy, but DeKorver said he hopes other cities get involved, as the last few years have shown an inexplicable drop in firefighter applicants joining the force. He said he’s hoping that not only does the camp help teach safety, but that it will also spark the interest of kids who may eventually want to become a firefighter and go through the certification program that Canyons School District offers to high school students. 

“Here at Sandy City Fire Department, part of our number one mission statement is prevention and education, so obviously we want this to continue to be successful,” said DeKorver. “This is a great program and Lenore Corey and Kimberly Hornberger have done a phenomenal job of keeping this program running and making sure that it’s just gotten better every time.”

The Sandy City Fire Department offers babysitting clinics throughout July, fire-safety presentations during the winter and preschool puppet shows in October.