LONG ISLAND - Heavy smoke, engulfing flames, a sense of urgency.
"To me it’s worth the sacrifice because I’m saving lives, which is the whole point of it," said 16-year-old Isaiah Defreitas from Hewlett, Long Island. He knows being a firefighter can be dangerous and risky, but he’s all in. Isaiah and about 30 other teens are participating in a free program called Camp Fahrenheit in Old Bethpage.
"I’ve learned CPR, obviously putting out a fire, just a whole bunch of things that can help not only in the fire service but EMS and even in civilian life too," said 16-year-old Edward Carroll from Hicksville.
The camp, which started in 2015, had to scale down from three squads to two squads this year because of COVID-19. Even though there are fewer members this summer, organizers stress that a hands-on camp like this is especially important right now.
"There is a shortage of volunteers throughout the state, especially on Long Island and introducing these kids at such a young age is a feed into the fire service when they reach the age," said Jerry Presta, whos the Chairman for the Nassau County Junior Firefighter Association.
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"I think a lot of girls don’t join just because they don’t think they can or can do it, but it’s not as tough, some stuff isn’t as tough as it looks," said 16-year-old Melissa O’Connor from Merrick. She’s hoping to inspire other girls to become firefighters.
The camp is a week long. It started on Monday and ends on Friday. To sign up for next year’s camp, you have to first join a junior program at your local firehouse. The camp’s goal is to get back to three squad’s next year.