EAU CLAIRE – Elizabeth Dachel, an eighth grader from Colfax, couldn’t wait for her chance to attend Girls on Fire, the firefighting and emergency medical services career exploration camp at Chippewa Valley Technical College (CVTC) June 22-26.
“A couple of years ago, I started watching (the TV show) Emergency! I thought it was really cool,” Dachel said. “That was the same year the Girls on Fire camp started and I really wanted to do this.”
Dachel was first eligible for the camp, for 7th-12th graders, last year, but a family event delayed her for a year. This year, she learned the camp was everything she thought it would be.
“It has been a lot of fun and opened me to new experiences,” she said.
The girls engaged in many hands-on activities directly related to firefighting and EMS careers, such as emergency medical procedures, holding a charged fire hose with the help of others, connecting a hose to a hydrant, safely climbing a ladder, putting out a fire with an extinguisher, and many other skills firefighters use every day. It also included many character and team-building activities. On the first day, the girls braved a ropes course that included a task in which they climbed a 30-foot pole, stood on top, then jumped off, being gently lowered to the ground by ropes held by fellow campers and instructors.
Dachel was up to the pole-climbing challenge. “I thought it was going to be a lot worse than it was,” she said, referring to the fear factor involved.
“The number one goal is to create confidence in young women, to have them do something that women don’t usually do,” said Marcy Bruflat, director of the camp.
Nationally, women make up only about four percent of professional firefighters, and Bruflat feels many young women don’t realize they are capable of doing the work. She wants the campers to learn their own capabilities, and to build teamwork and leadership skills.
“All of our activities are tied to leadership in some way,” Bruflat said. “And they work together as part of crews. We want them to get more confident in themselves, but to also focus on ‘us.’ ”
Bruflat says it would be an “added bonus” if the camp led some of the girls to enroll in CVTC’s FireMedic program and pursue careers in the field. It’s at least getting some girls to think about it, if they haven’t already.
Morgan Kacures, a freshman at Mondovi High School, has thought about it, which is why she enrolled in the camp. “I’m interested in being an EMT and wanted to see what it was all about,” she said.
Kacures got a good sample of emergency medical service work on the second day of the camp, when participants learned to insert an IV tube in a simulator hand, perform CPR, and evaluate an injured patient using a high-tech simulator mannequin.
“He fell off a ladder,” Kacures recalled. “He had a fractured arm and ankle and an injury to his forehead.”
Vanessa Jenneman, an eighth grader from Bloomer, took the lead in a search-and-rescue exercise at the camp. Blindfolded to simulate the lack of visibility in a smoky fire, she felt her way along the walls and furniture in search of an infant doll. Two other campers followed right behind her, making frequent physical contact so as not to lose one another.
“I never thought of this as a career choice, but I thought I’d look into it to see if I’d like it,” Jenneman said. “It’s different than I thought it would be. There’s a lot more to it.”
The camp included many positive role models for girls. The camp instructors were female firefighters and EMTs from the area, female CVTC FireMedic students, and men in the field as well.
The Girls on Fire camp was one of 11 tech camps held at CVTC June 15-26. For more on the camps offered, go to cvtc.edu/camps.
Chippewa Valley Technical College delivers superior, progressive technical education which improves the lives of students, meets the workforce needs of the region, and strengthens the larger community. Campuses are located in Chippewa Falls, Eau Claire, Menomonie, Neillsville and River Falls. CVTC serves an 11-county area in west central Wisconsin. CVTC is part of the Wisconsin Technical College System (WTCS) and is one of 16 WTCS colleges located throughout the state.