'We're trying to teach leadership ... not just to become a firefighter'
EUGENE, Ore. -- The Eugene and Springfield Fire Departments co-hosted their third fire camp for teenage girls this week, hoping to build confidence and leadership skills while sparking an interest in a career few women pursue.
Around 15 girls are participating in this week-long camp at Eugene Fire and EMS headquarters. The girls learned everything about fighting fires, and their training is topped off Friday by fighting a real fire.
In preparation for the final challenge, the trainees suited up on Thursday and learned how to repel down the side of a building.
"We're hoping this camp will really shows young women and girls that there are opportunities in the fire service that they should take hold of," said Carolyn McCann a firefighter with Eugene FD.
Camp organizers said there are only eight women of the nearly 170 firefighters working at the Eugene and Springfield Fire Departments
This year marks the third time the fire departments have coordinated the "Confidence and Leadership Fire Camp".
It is free for high-schoolers, and gives girls like 14-year-old Kamryn Knox a chance to get hands on training.
"It's kinda been a goal for me to actually be a firefighter when I'm older so it's been a fun experience," said Knox. "My uncle was a firefighter so, I like it and it was really interesting for me."
Like Knox, others participating in the fire camp said family was one of the motivations behind their drive to try firefighting.
"I lost my dad when I was 13," said 18-year-old Angel Talamante. "I wanna make myself a hero for someone else's family."
One of the lessons they're trying to teach these girls is learning how to face your fears. A way that the campers conquered their fear is by climbing up a truck ladder to the top of a six story building
"We're trying to teach leadership, confidence - anything to build their stamina mentally and physically - for themselves throughout their life, not just to become a firefighter," McCann said.
Rung by rung, each of the girls made it to the top of the training building. Their next task was rappelling down the side of a building.
Jessica Shaw, 16, said it was a little frightening for some of them to step backwards off the ledge. Once one the ground, Shaw said it was a lesson learned.
"To just face your fears. It was one of my biggest fears," Shaw said.