LAKELAND, Fla. (WFLA) — The Lakeland Fire Department is looking for more diverse applicants and on Wednesday held its first annual “Urban Teen Firefighter Camp” with the hope of getting kids interested in firefighting.
Kids from the City of Lakeland Parks and Recreation Teen Camp II got to step into the action-packed life of a firefighter. Kids put on full gear and busted through doors and car windows, and tried to hold heavy fire hoses filled with water.
“It was hard. They make it look easy but it was really hard,” said 12-year-old Jaremey McQueen.
“It was very fun. A little hard to grip [the hose] when you first turn the water on because it filled up very quickly,” said 11-year-old Cameron Stinson. To him, the experience was once in a lifetime. “I want to be a firefighter. It’s been a little dream since I grew up, in the back of my head. This gives me a firsthand reason to really be a firefighter. They’re showing me what they do and how they work.”
The goal of the camp is twofold, giving kids something to do and targeting diverse youth in Lakeland who might want a career as a firefighter.
Most fire departments, like LFD, struggle to find diverse applicants. It is the hope of this program to expose students early on, prior to graduation, to the fire service so that they may someday become firefighters.
“Diversity is a challenge for fire departments in our nation. We think if we get to them when they are younger, and introduce him to the fire service, answer all their questions, and let them know that this is obviously a career choice for them, maybe we can win them over,” said LFD Assistant Fire Chief Doug Riley.
“When I was a kid, I never thought twice about being a firefighter, because it really wasn’t in my environment. So, by exposing them to an environment like this, hopefully they will have an idea where they are headed before they even get to high school,” said City of Lakeland Recreation Superintendent, Julie Adams, who helped organize the event.
The fire department is looking to make this an annual event for Lakeland Summer Campers. The public is always welcome at any of the seven fire stations. Larger groups they can schedule a tour.