The Warren County Firemen’s Association and Hawtree Volunteer Fire Department recognized youth Saturday morning who had completed a week’s worth of training in the first Warren County Fire & Rescue Kids Camp June 24-28.

Hawtree hosted the camp for 14 youth participants at its fire station in the Wise community, focusing on skills including dressing and running a fire call, proper use of ladders and knot tying, wilderness rescue, CPR and first aid, using a fire extinguisher, putting out a car fire, extricating a victim from a vehicle, water rescue, safety and working as a team.

Steve Barney, Hawtree fire chief, said that some of the youth may have been out of their comfort zones at times.

“They climbed ladders, cut cars, put out a vehicle fire, tied ropes, had medical training, carried a victim in and out of the woods all by themselves in groups,” he said. “It’s been good.”

Joey Andrews, president of the fire association and chief of the Afton-Elberon Volunteer Fire Department, said the participants excelled at the training. He also praised the three junior firefighter trainers who assisted with the camp: Bradley Pitzing, Bobby Faulk and Matthew Brogden.

“They (the junior trainers) have been a big help this week,” Andrews said. “Without them, we couldn’t have made it this week.”

On Saturday, the campers demonstrated some new skills for their parents and others who gathered to see what they had learned, ending outside with a series of water tug-of-war competitions, the popular event that closes each county Firemen’s Day and Junior Firefighter competition each year.

Before lunch was served indoors, Barney and Andrews recognized each camper with certificates, firefighter bobbleheads, framed poems entitled “Your Best” and other gifts.

“The kids have really enjoyed this and have gotten their hands into wearing fire gear and pulling hose like we do when we get to a fire,” Andrews said. “The most important part is trying to get them into the volunteer fire service young, so hopefully they’ll carry on as they get to the age to become a volunteer or paid firefighter.”

County Forest Ranger Bryant Pitchford, who helped with training all week, recognized Barney for his work in organizing the camp and presented campers with certificates in basic wildland skills. He said he probably enjoyed the camp better than any training class he had ever done.

Victor Tucker, fire chief of the Ridgeway Volunteer Fire Department but speaking as a parent, thanked the camp leaders for being such a positive influence on the youth.

“It makes a big difference on all of them,” Tucker said. “It’s a big difference when you put your kids in other people’s hands.”

Several of the youth campers were 14 years old, the maximum age to participate, but will be eligible to become junior trainers next year. One of those older campers was Leah St. Sing, granddaughter of former longtime Hawtree fire chief Bruce Perkinson.

St. Sing, who grew up around the fire service, said she felt she had a bit of an advantage over some of the other campers. But all the campers knew a little about the fire service, she said.

“We were all able to teach each other,” St. Sing said. “It was a lot harder than people think. It’s a lot harder to put the gear on and a lot heavier.”

In addition to fire departments and individuals, agencies that helped with training were: Warren County Emergency Medical Services, Warren County Sheriff’s Office, N. C. Forest Service and Duke Life Flight.

As the Warren County Fire & Rescue Kids Camp continues to grow in the future, Barney said that more help would be needed to run it. A similar camp in neighboring Northampton County had some 50 youth participants this year.

Local camp organizers want to acknowledge the following for donations to make this year’s event happen: Afton-Elberon Vol. Fire Department, Aycock Auto, Carolina Country Snacks, Churchill-Five Forks Vol. Fire Department, Drewry Vol. Fire Department, Firehouse Biscuits and Burgers/Claude O’Hagan, Gary’s Auto, Hawtree Vol. Fire Department, Laura Tucker, Norlina Towing, QC Builders, Ridgeway Vol. Fire Department, Roanoke-Wildwood Vol. Fire Department, Tar Heel Tire, Warrenton Insurance and Warrenton Rural Vol. Fire Department.

Jennifer Harris is editor at The Warren Record in Warrenton, N.C.