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Firefighters earn trust of day-campers

By Gheni_Platenburg
Aug. 9, 2011 at 3:09 a.m.

Hailey Sohl, 3, learns to identify equipment used by firefighters, from the helmet on Michael Carbajal's head, to the breathing apparatus on his back. Carbajal and other Victoria County firefighters taught the fire prevention program at Pinnacle Point apartments/YMCA day camp on Monday.

SEMINARS

To schedule similar educational seminars, call the Victoria County fire marshal's office at 361- 579-9103.

Victoria County firefighter Mike Carbajal is all for crawling around the floor in his firefighting uniform with a bunch of 3-,4- and 5-year- olds hyped up on juice and cookies if it means they will learn to trust firefighters, a decision that could possibly save their lives one day.

Carbajal demonstrated the firemen crawl during a fire education presentation for a group of 20 day-campers at the Pinnacle Pointe YMCA on Monday.

With a theme of "Firefighters are our Friends," Carbajal along with firefighters Richard Castillo and Jim Wagar, sought to teach campers the importance of running to, not from, firefighters in the event of a fire.

"We're not monsters, said Carbajal, who said children are often scared of their intimidating uniforms. "They don't need to be scared. We're here to help them. That's the biggest message."

The presentation was one of several enrichment programs held for students throughout the summer.

Each year, nearly 488 children ages 14 and under die in home fires, while another 116,600 children are injured from a fire/burn related incident, according to the National Fire Protection Association.

Additionally, the death rate of children under 5 years of age is nearly twice the national average.

A lack of knowledge of what to do during a fire could be to blame for these alarming statistics.

"Kids automatically hide under the bed, in the closet or in the bathroom," said Carbajal.

The fire department hopes to thwart off these statistics by holding these educational seminars, the majority of which take place during the school year.

Through a magic trick-infused lesson, campers not only learned to call 911 in case of an emergency, but also they learned about the different parts of Carbajal's uniform by helping to dress him.

"When they crawl all over you, that's what we want. That means they are comfortable," said Castillo. " When there is an emergency, they will realize that's the guy they played with, and they won't be afraid."

This lesson was especially meaningful to campers like 4-year-old Brayden Adames, who was initially too frightened to approach the firefighters during the interactive presentation.

"I didn't like his mask," said Brayden, who was on the brink of tears. "It was scary."

During the presentation, campers also toured the fire truck and got to turn on the water hose.

The presentation was a big hit among campers like Michael Carbajal's daughter, Sabrina Carbajal.

"He helps people out of the house fire," said Sabrina, 4, as she described what her Dad does for a living.

Tyren Burley, who said he wants to be a firefighter when he grows up, shared his thoughts on the presentation.

"I liked spraying the water hose," said Tyren, 5. "It was fun."

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