As firefighters set two pallets ablaze in the back parking lot of , parents and onlookers watched quietly from their cars, well away from the fire.
As the flames grew and the heat from the fire blew in the breeze, the sound of sirens cut through the silence. The crowd watched as two fire engines rolled up the hill and nearly a dozen kids dressed in protective gear climbed out. With the help of several firefighters, the children unrolled two fire hoses and worked together to put out the flames.
This was the culmination of a week's worth of training, group, and leadership exercises that the kids learned in Camp 4 Alarm, which basses its tenants on communication, safety, teamwork and respect, Manassas Park firefighters said.
“The camp is a cooperation between the ( of recreation and the fire department,” said Lt. Joe Neiberger of the Manassas Park Fire Department.” He explained that during the week the children are exposed to the day-to-day life of fire and emergency service workers.
“Today isn't the first time they've worked with hoses,” Neiberger said on Friday. “They've had lots of hands on training.”
Everyday this week parks and recreation employees picked the kids up from their homes and brought them to the fire department where they started each day with physical training exercises followed by different activities which prepared them for the pallet fires, explained Josiah Renton of Parks and Recreation.
“Camp was good. The fire was really hot, but it was fun.” said camper Samira Galimore, who added that this week she and her fellow campers, “learned how to respect each other.” She said she enjoyed the camp because she got to know her peers better.
“It was really fun,” said camper Cristal Garcia. “Anyone who hasn't done it before should definitely do it.”
“It was pretty cool said camper Cheyenne Hutchison. “You sweat a lot.” Hutchison said she learned about “teamwork and respect” this week.
This is the fifth year the camp has been held in Manassas Park.
“Four-Alarm provides teens with a safe alternative for social interactions during the summer,” Matthew Hildreth, recreation specialist for the Office of Teens said in a statement. “It also gives them an opportunity to improve their team building and leadership skills through their cooperation with the Manassas Park Parks and Recreations and Fire Department.”
Some previous campers have even expressed an interest in becoming more involved in different fire department services, Neiberger said. At present there is no junior program within the Manassas Park Fire Department, but he explained that they planning to create one.
Neiberger also said that for the past year-and-a-half the department has been working with the high school to develop a mentor program to “allow [students] to talk to someone whose been down the road.” He explained that the program is “not just for fire, but EMS [Emergency Medical Services] as well.”
Camp 4-Alarm is just one of many programs the Manassas Park Community Center has for teens to explore professions, Renton said. “Last week we just wrapped up Road DAWG (Don’t Associate With Gangs) with the police department,” he said.