By: Robert Avsec, Executive Fire Officer
After my recent posts about Summer Fire Camps for girls and young women, I received some
feedback from a couple of women who had attended Camp Fully Involved, a summer fire camp for girls hosted by the New Hampshire State Fire Academy, located in Concord, New Hampshire.
I contacted one of those young ladies, Julie Thibodeau, and arranged to interview her by telephone. Julie also put me in contact with her long-time friend and fellow camper, Cassandra “Cassie” Schambach, who provided me with her story via text message.
How did you learn about Camp Fully Involved?
Julie: My father was a firefighter in our hometown and he heard about it, so we looked up the information on the Camp Fully Involved website and Facebook Page. I applied for the camp and was accepted.
Cassie: I learned about Camp Fully Involved from Julie.
How old were you when you attended Camp Fully Involved?
Julie: I was 16-years-old, almost 17. I was a junior firefighter here in the Town of Vernon and so I was really excited about going to camp.
Cassie: I was 16 when I attended.
What do you remember most about your fire camp experience?
Julie: The confidence that I gained to be able to work through any tough situation, not just firefighting situations. I’ll never forget the slogan that was on our camp T-shirts and all the equipment that we used, “Tell me and I’ll forget. Show me and I’ll understand. Involve me and I’ll remember.” Been more than four years now and I still remember that.
Cassie: I was a pretty timid girl, but CFI taught me to have more confidence in myself and not be afraid to step out of my comfort zone.
Where did life take you after your fire camp experience?
Julie: When I turned 18-years of age, I applied for full membership with my department. Then I went on and obtained my EMT certification. Unfortunately, I suffered a serious car crash that interrupted my desire to pursue a career firefighter job. One the plus side, that part of my life gave me an opportunity to consider what I wanted to do with my life if being a full-time firefighter wasn’t in the plans.
I found myself getting into the restaurant field and progressing to becoming a chef and that’s what I do today. I’m looking forward to one day opening my own restaurant. My husband and I have also started a family—we have a 6-month-old baby boy—and that’s my other full-time job.
Cassie: After camp I finished high school and began college at the University of New Haven pursuing a degree in paramedicine. Upon my 18th birthday, I became a full member of my hometown’s volunteer fire department. I am currently a nationally certified EMT looking to someday land a career as a firefighter paramedic.
What would you say to girls to encourage them to attend a fire camp?
Julie: If they are interested in becoming a firefighter, it’s the most hands-on experience they’ll ever get to see if that’s what they really want to do. As a junior firefighter in my department, I was strictly limited as to what I was able to do, for example, I couldn’t use SCBA and I couldn’t climb more than six feet off the ground. Camp Fully Involved gave me the opportunity to those things and more!
If they don’t necessarily want to be a firefighter—or don’t know what they want to do—it’s a great experience for learning about what firefighters do. Especially if they have family members or friends who are firefighters, it gives them a chance to “see what it’s all about.”
Cassie: Fire camp was one of the most influential weeks of my life. I would highly encourage girls to
attend one especially if they if they have no previous experience. I had roots in the fire service as my father volunteers at home.
However, the camp really showed me what firefighting is all about. Not only does it teach fireground specific knowledge, it teaches life skills: confidence, leadership, and problem solving. “Girlpower” is a real thing and that became evident to me when I spent a week at CFI with some of the strongest girls and women I know.