Brick Fire Camp Gives Teens A Glimpse Of Service To Community

BRICK, NJ — Each summer, police departments around the area, including Brick Township, host a group of tweens and teenagers for a youth police camp, to get a glimpse into a career in law enforcement.

For years, the police camp included a day spent with the township’s volunteer fire companies, seeing the equipment and hearing about fighting fires.

It gave Richard Orlando, the assistant chief with the Brick Township Bureau of Fire Safety, an idea: what if kids had a whole camp to check it out?

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“We decided to do this to give a real window into the fire service for the kids,” Orlando said recently after the conclusion of the second Brick Youth Fire Camp. Twenty-three boys and girls ages 12 to 16 participated in the camp, which was held July 10-14 at various sites in Brick.

The campers, who are selected by a lottery, learn about the history of Brick’s firefighting service, which is an all-volunteer force, not including the Bureau of Fire Safety. They learn about the various aspects of firefighting, including investigations and fire prevention, and they get to see how firefighters work together with emergency medical services and other agencies.

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“We have so many tools at our disposal,” Orlando said, including a fire boat, and the department’s mutual aid partners showcase other equipment and apparatus, including a medevac helicopter, and there’s a day where the kids get to spray a fire hose.

“If you don’t ride on the fire truck and squirt water, what’s the point of fire camp?” he said with a laugh.

They have a maximum of 25 participants, with the kids divided into groups of five — “we had a full group of five girls this year,” he said — and the township’s fire companies enthusiastically participate.

“The greatest thing is there’s a place for everyone,” Orlando said. “It opens up yet another world of career possibilities where kids can say, ‘Maybe this is for me.’ “
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Orlando said there is hope that exposing kids to firefighting will spark their interest in joining the fire companies.

As the number of people volunteering as first responders continues to dwindle across the country, towns are being forced to turn to paid services to provide firefighting and EMS, he said.

In Ocean County, that impact has been considerable. Brick, along with several other towns, has paid EMTs and squads operating to ensure patients get help, and longstanding volunteer first aid squads continue to shut down because of a lack of volunteers to staff the ambulances. (Ocean County officials are discussing a regional service to provide EMS services, especially to the barrier island towns from Bay Head to Island Beach State Park, because of the lack of first aid squads.) In Manchester, the township has a paid EMS service and paid firefighters on duty during the day.

Volunteering can be a stepping stone to those paid positions, he said. The 2023 camp had encouraging results; the father of one of the students has inquired about volunteering, and one of the teens ask about returning in 2024 as an assistant camp counselor.

“At 17 they can start fire school, at 18 they can join and become firefighters,” Orlando said. “We see it (the camp) as a bridge.”

It’s fully embraced by the township’s firefighters and fully supported by the Board of Fire Commissioners, Orlando said. Kids receive T-shirts, hats, water bottles and backpacks that are paid for by the board of fire commissioners. Parents have just two things asked of them: get their children to the camp on time and pick them up on time, and supply a case of water or a healthy snack that can be shared with the campers.

“We put our heart into it,” Orlando said. “It really fills my heart at the end of the week. It’s a huge department effort and they all step up.”

Orlando already is looking ahead to next year, planning and looking at what they can improve, and come March, they will announce on the fire safety bureau’s Facebook page that applications are being accepted for the 2024 camp.

“This allows us to remember why we do what we do,” Orlando said.

The week was captured in photos and video by Jersey Shore Fire Response, and the fire safety bureau shared the photos on the department’s Facebook page, along with messages of gratitude after the camp was over. The video can be seen here.

“This week would not have been possible without the Brick Township Board of Fire Commissioners, our amazing volunteers from all four fire departments and surrounding towns who helped lend a hand, as well as the incredible staff at the Division of Fire Safety, Brick Township Police Emergency Medical Services and Hackensack Meridian Health Aeromedical. Thank you to Peaches & Cream Ice Cream Truck for saving the day on two of the hottest days this week!” Orlando wrote.

“A HUGE Thank You goes to Jersey Shore Fire Response for spending the week with us and capturing lots of moments for the kids to remember for years to come! Thank you for the awesome video you made to recap our week and to share some of their experience with their parents!

“Thank you to our cadets who were dedicated to learning, invested in trying something different and persevered through the hot, humid conditions this week! Lastly, but certainly not least, THANK YOU to the Parents who entrusted us with your children and allowed us to provide the kids with an experience worth remembering,” he wrote.

See the photos here: Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4

Participating fire companies were: Pioneer Hose Co #1, Breton Woods Fire Company #1, Laurelton Fire Company #1, Herbertsville Fire Company No. 1, Manasquan Hook & Ladder Company #1, Silverton Volunteer Fire Company, Ocean Beach Volunteer Fire Company – NJ, and Point Pleasant Fire Department Station 75.

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