The Arlington County Fire Department will hold its second free firefighting summer camp this weekend to immerse girls in the demands of fire service.
From Friday to Sunday, 24 campers will stay at Marymount University with six female firefighter “camp mentors” as chaperons. With the guidance of ACFD instructors, the 13 to 17-year-old girls will learn about physical fitness, emergency medical procedures, fire history and fire behavior.
“This is hands on, so it shows them they’re physically capable of doing it,” ACFD spokesperson Sarah Marchegiani said.”Most young girls are not encouraged to join the fire service or any physical career at all.”
Although one of the camp’s goals is to build self-esteem, the camp will encourage girls to consider careers as firefighters by giving them a real taste of the firefighter experience, according to Marchegiani. All campers will complete a CPR training course to become CPR certified, have fire extinguisher training and eat meals in the firehouse with ACFD firefighters. During one of Friday’s activities, ACFD staff will burn a mock bedroom to show campers how a fire acts in such a situation.
Last year, Arlington held its first girls’ firefighting camp. The CPR class is new to the camp this year, and campers will have more opportunities to handle firefighting equipment than they did last year, Marchegiani said.
“We think it’s more important to build confidence in these girls and teach them to not limit themselves,” Marchegiani said. “We anticipate the effects of this are more long term.”
While ACFD is known for hiring the first female firefighter in the U.S. in 1974, it’s comprised of less than 7 percent female, career firefighters on average, which is higher than the national average at 4 percent. The ACFD wants to encourage more young women to see themselves in a fire service career.
The ACFD increased camp registration size from 16 girls to 24 girls this year as a result of more firefighters assisting.The camp’s registration is full, but ACFD plans to hold the camp every summer.