Jake Skogman, 11, (left) and Sarah Anderson, 12, prepare to put out a building fire during the Lynnwood Kids Fire Camp on Thursday. Members of the Lynnwood Fire Department organize group activities for the kids that promote teamwork, including a ladder walk, extinguishing fires and saving a life with ropes. (Daniella Beccaria / For The Herald)

Kids get hands-on experience at Lynnwood Fire Department’s day camp

LYNNWOOD — Maggie Galipeau didn’t think twice about climbing 80 feet in the air on a fire ladder. The 11-year-old’s turn couldn’t come fast enough.

“You’re in a harness. You’re not going to fall,” she said, grabbing onto the fire rig and hoisting herself up to the base of the ladder.

She slowly made her way to the top and stepped off onto the fire training tower where firefighters untethered her harness. Maggie will have a story to tell her classmates at Olympic View Middle School in Mukilteo, where she’ll soon be a sixth-grader.

“That was awesome,” the girl said once on solid ground.

Maggie is one of a couple of dozen youngsters taking part in Lynnwood Fire Department’s day camp this week. The camp wraps up Friday with the kids heading to the city pool in the morning to learn about hypothermia, life jacket safety and river rescues. In the afternoon campers will race against each other and the clock in a series of competitions testing their new skills.

This is the second year the department has hosted a camp for youngsters. Fire Chief Scott Cockrum pitched the idea when he started with Lynnwood nearly two years ago. His former department in California had sponsored a kids camp for years.

Lynnwood firefighters volunteered their time to give campers a peek into the profession.

Keith Sessions, a longtime Lynnwood firefighter, served as this year’s camp director.

The mission is to help bolster self-confidence and to encourage the kids to be leaders, Sessions said. The campers also learn to rely on each other and work together as a team, he said.

“We hope they take those skills into the community and their schools. We want them to be leaders and do the right thing,” he said. “They’re learning those things without even knowing it.”

The campers also should be able to wow their classmates come fall. The kids learned to tie knots earlier in the week, including a clove hitch. Maggie demonstrated the knot on her wrist, explaining that they used it to secure “Rescue Randy” in a stokes basket firefighters use to haul patients to safety from steep angles.

The campers will have the chance to test their speed at tying knots and rescuing the mannequin at Friday’s competition.

Thursday they practiced assembling three sections of fire hose, each 50 feet, at Fire District 1’s training center in south Everett. Once the kids threaded the hoses together, a duo on the nozzle called for water. That set in motion two other campers in charge of switching on a valve, sending a powerful stream of water through the 1 ¾-inch hoses. Two kids steadied themselves as they held onto the nozzle and aimed for a traffic cone.

Maggie’s mom signed her up for fire camp.

“She thought it would be an awesome experience to learn what firemen do. Now, she’s jealous I’m doing all this cool stuff and she’s at home watching TV,” Maggie said.

Rikki Miller, 9, has visited the Lynnwood station plenty of times. Her dad works as a firefighter. She was eager to try her hand at his job. She climbed the aerial ladder truck twice, even though it made her a “little dizzy.”

She also was impressed by how firefighters can take apart a car to rescue a patient trapped inside. They used a “tiny tool to click on a window, shattering it to tiny pieces,” she said.

“They said, ‘They don’t take a person out of a car. They take the car off the person,’” the Cathcart Elementary School student said.

Andy Mereckis, 11, has plans to be a firefighter. He was getting a feel for wearing a fire helmet and a bunker coat, even if they were about 10 sizes too big. Andy and a buddy grabbed a fire hose, crouched down and crept into a dark room. A large propane burner flared up in the corner of the room. The exercise was meant to replicate the conditions crews encounter in a house fire.

Andy and his friend burst out of the room, laughing and shaking off their gloves.

“The heat in there is too hot,” the Bellevue boy said. “It’s also very dark and steamy in there. I can barely see the orange, little light.”

The heat and conditions didn’t shake his resolve to be a fireman. He likes the idea of “putting out fires and saving lives.” Andy explained that he’s watched plenty of YouTube videos featuring firefighters.

“In the videos a lot of them say, ‘It’s the best job in the world,’” he said.

Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463; hefley@heraldnet.com.

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