By Josette Keelor
FRONT ROYAL -- The average internal temperature of a house on fire is 900 to 1,800 degrees, Fire Marshal Gerry Maiatico told area students on Wednesday.
At the Front Royal Volunteer Fire and Rescue Department, the outdoor temperature wasn't nearly that high, but it was hot enough for 12-year-old Front Royal resident Katya Stafira as she pulled on layers of fire equipment Maiatico told her can weigh between 70 and 100 pounds.
"I'm getting very hot," she told him after pulling on the boots, pants and a coat.
"Oh trust me," he answered, "it gets a lot worse."
She pulled on a breathing apparatus that prevents smoke inhalation during a rescue, an air tank, hood and hat.
Then he handed her an ax to use on the job and reminded her of the strength it takes to drag a water hose up several flights of stairs or lift a jaws of life spreader when rescuing someone from a damaged car.
"This is literally a business where seconds count," Maiatico said.
A firefighter needs to pull on equipment, board a fire truck, strap in and be ready to leave the station all in under a minute's time, but Katya found that wearing all that equipment she could barely lift her legs. Not detecting movement from her, the equipment's personal alert safety system started sounding a mayday alarm, so Maiatico told her to shimmy.
At the age of 12, 13 or 14, area students with Warren Memorial Hospital's Camp MED (Mentoring Everyone's Dreams) program aren't ready yet for the physical and mental demands of becoming an EMT, paramedic or firefighter. But, according to Maiatico, they are the perfect age for volunteering for a fire and rescue department and learning skills to use later in any health care career.
In this week's 11th Camp MED I program, rising eighth and ninth graders will learn about the various health care career options available to them. The second session, Camp MED II, will be from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Aug. 5-8, with orientation from 5 to 7 p.m. on July 31.
Last year's first session campers are eligible to attend this year's second session, which nurse educator Julie Dellinger said is currently accepting applications.
"This year we took everybody because we had space for everybody," said Dellinger, an RN with Valley Health at Warren Memorial Hospital.
The programs allow students from the counties of Frederick, Clarke, Page, Shenandoah and Warren, as well as Winchester and some surrounding counties to gain initial exposure to the health care field, Dellinger said.
"They get to peek into a little bit of this, a little bit of that and also do some fun things during the week," she said.
At the Warren County Airport, students talked with Phi AirCare flight paramedic Dan Barry and flight nurse Lewis Ludwig about the care medevac units provide, carrying patients from one hospital to another or from the scene of a rescue to the hospital. Each helicopter can fit up to five people, including a flight paramedic, flight nurse, patient and pilot.
Daria Morris of Lovettsville attended Camp MED I with a definite idea of what her career will be.
Her dad is an EMT basic and her mom an registered nurse. Daria wants to be a Phi flight nurse and currently volunteers with Purcellville's rescue squad.
Being a part of Camp MED, she said, "It just reaffirmed what I've already decided."
For information on Camp MED I or II, call 540-636-0531 or visit www.valleyhealthlink.com/campmed
Contact staff writer Josette Keelor at 540-465-5137, ext. 176, or firstname.lastname@example.org