A camping day like no other, Romeoville Youth Fire Camp is sparking a passion for public safety

CHICAGO (CBS) – The suburban camp was a literal fire, a fiery, purposeful mess. Morning Insider Lauren Victory took us to Romeoville for an explanation.

“We’re going to win. That’s our strategy. We’re just going to win,” Reuben Roberts, 13, said before a friendly camping competition involving a burned trash can.

Robert talks about his thoughts on the challenge that involved spraying a water cannon to extinguish the flames.

Teenager focus is needed for real-life problems that firefighters face. The idea at Romeoville Youth Fire Camp is to expose children to all kinds of situations.

Reagan McNair, 10, said: “I said, ‘Wow! It’s crazy,” because I’ve never done this before,’ 10-year-old Reagan McNair said.

10- to 13-year-olds start their week-long session with the basics: fighting old-school fires through buckets of water. Then they visit the younger children in another camp to impart some new knowledge to them.

“We’ve taught 7 and under how to ‘Stop, Drop and Roll’ if they’re on fire; so later when they grow up, if they have a house fire, they can get out safely,” 13 old Emily Rossio explains.

Battalion commander Mike Spradau knew that only a demonstration of fire equipment could upset a crowd. He will have to do everything to attract campers.

“We were a bit nervous when the camp started,” Spradau said. “We were like, ‘How is it going? They are 10 to 13 years old. We don’t take our phones out.”

Keeping their attention wasn’t an issue with much of the (flaming) entertainment and the fact that McNair was assigned as the commanding officer on her team.

“I like to watch everyone, make sure they’re in line and don’t go astray,” she says.

Romeoville Fire is one of a number of departments that are having a hard time finding work right now. In recent months, 10 out of 12 part-time positions have been vacant, meaning camping is more than just fun and fire safety.

“One of the things we came up with as a head of staff was, maybe we could start recruiting these kids at an early age,” said Spradau, who hopes to provide This free camp level will spark in kids a passion for public safety, years ahead.

“I can think of actually becoming a [a firefighter]”, said Roberts, without hesitation in his interview with us.

Recruiting efforts will need to wait a bit to bear fruit. Most fire fighting positions in Illinois require a male/female age 21 or older.

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