"Camp Ignite" helping teenage girls find confidence through firefighting
CHARLOTTE, NC (WJZY) - Sixty feet up, climbing step by step, that's how high these girls were at the Police and Fire Training academy.
Camp Ignite is a program for teenage girls to help them learn firefighting skills from female firefighters. It's not just all about job skills; they're also learning life skills.
"We want them to take what they've learned here, overcoming the challenges of coming out of a 5th floor window or climbing a 150 foot aerials and go that next life challenges that comes at them. If I did this, I can do that," Charlotte Fire Department Fire Chief Paula McDaniels said.
"It's definitely a confidence builder for a lot of us," Cara Hasty said.
"We are team building when we are eating and talking, we're laughing, we are having fun with each other," Lauren Haggerson said.
They're also learning from each other how to overcome obstacles and fears. Which is where rappelling off the side of the building comes into play.
"We did a bunch of exercises with trust and it was basically like you gotta know that these people are here for you at all times and that if you don't think you can do it. You gotta get the mind set," Hasty said.
"So far, the ones that said they were terrified have gone right through it. Not even looked back. I'm so proud, I can't stand it," Chief McDaniels said.
After a little convincing I suited up too. Charlotte Fire Department gave me a harness, helmet and gloves. Walked up to the fifth floor and looked out of the window. Pretty high! That first step was a little scary but hearing the cheers from down below helped me conquer the wall. In minutes, I was back down on safe ground.
The Charlotte Fire Department tells FOX 46 Charlotte their goal is to build strong, confident girls who may even come back one day down the road to apply for a job.
"Yes, we want them to come on to the fire department. I would be lying if I didn't say that but more important to me is them getting those life skills,” Chief McDaniels said.