LAKELAND (FOX 13) - You've probably heard it before: A child saying, "I want to be a firefighter when I grow up." Wednesday, the Lakeland Fire Department gave children a chance to live out this dream and be a firefighter for a day at the first-ever Urban Teen Firefighter Camp.
More than 30 children from Lakeland summer camps participated. The goal for the fire department: Get a diverse group of kids interested in a career as a firefighter.
"Diversity is a challenge for fire departments throughout the nation," explained Assistant Fire Chief Doug Riley. "We want to reach out and contact with a part of the demographics that we normally don't contact with."
Campers got to participate in real-life scenarios, such as an extrication using the jaws of life, breaking down a door in a forced entry, and fighting a fire. Cameron Stinson had his hands full with the fire hose.
"It's very fun, but when you first hold it, it's hard to grip, but you get used to it when time goes on," the 12-year-old said.
Camp organizers say this is an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for kids like Stinson.
"Having them here instead of walking around the streets is huge. It's big," said Kenneth Davis, camp supervisor. They would never come to a fire department and get a tour, and get to talk with these professionals.
"By creating an environment where they're exposed to things like this, hopefully they'll have a little better idea of where they're headed before they get to high school," offered Julie Adams, assistant superintendent of recreation with the city of Lakeland. "They'll have an idea of, 'Maybe I want to be a firefighter.'"
That's certainly what leaders at Lakeland Fire Department hope.
"If one of these guys comes and works for me someday, then I think it's a huge success," Riley told FOX 13.
"I think it's my future job, really," exclaimed Stinson.