By Eric Kowal, RDECOMAugust 12, 2011
PICATINNY ARSENAL, N.J, Aug. 12, 2011 -- As the tenth anniversary of the horrific tragedy that unfolded on Sept. 11, 2001 approaches, it's natural to often think back to where we were when the news broke.
Firefighters remember what they were doing when the twin towers in lower Manhattan were struck by aircraft. And they vividly recall the 343 firemen who died while trying to save others.
Although firemen at Picatinny Arsenal's fire department don't receive the same volume of calls as other local departments, they consistently train and prepare to respond to a 9/11 type of scenario.
During the third consecutive year that the department held its junior firefighter camp, firefighters spent two days teaching students about the day-to-day life of a firefighter.
Chris Barrella, the department's training officer, coordinated the camp held from Aug. 1-2.
The camp, which is open to students enrolled in the Picatinny Youth Summer Camp, consisted of 15 students who participated in a variety of classroom activities and demonstrations.
"They (the firefighters) are trying to give back to the community," said Richard Karlsson, director of the Department of Emergency Services.
"Summertime is a tough time for kids because there may be an absence of a working parent or friends vacationing. These firefighters are here to mentor," Karlsson added.
Students learned to live and eat like firemen. On the first day, students ate baked ziti prepared by one of the firemen.
"It takes a lot for your ziti to be better than my grandma's," Kyra Ammon, 13, said to a fireman after lunch. "But it is."
The kitchen resembles what a firehouse kitchen looks like on the television show "Rescue Me," which often refers to the events of 9/11.
At a large rectangular table propped up by old fire hydrants, everyone gathers around and eats like a large family.
On the second day, Garrison Commander Lt. Col. Herb Koehler and the command sergeant major, Command Sgt. Major Scott Koroll, stopped by the house to eat with the firefighters and students.
"These are the best hot dogs I ever had," said Nick Collazo, 14, adding that he would like to be a firefighter when he grows up.
After lunch, students climbed 35 feet on one of the fire truck ladders.
"I couldn't see where I was going. It was wobbly," Ammon said.
The ladder was positioned at a 45-degree angle so that the children could easily climb, and was extended only one-third of its full 105-foot potential. Neither winds nor harsh weather impeded the climbers.
"From up here my garden looks like an overgrowth of weeds," said Blair Nulk, daughter of the deployed Col. Raymond Nulk, the military deputy officer for the Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center.
After the climb, the firefighters put on all of their gear and approached an old junk car that had been strategically placed against a tree to look as if it had been in an accident.
The men demonstrated removing the windshield, all four doors, and the roof of the vehicle with the "Jaws Of Life," a hydraulic rescue tool.
"The first responder on the scene or the chief will make sure the area is safe for us to react," said Anthony Roberts, the department's inspector.
"There may be gas, oil, anti-freeze, or even live wires, all hazards that we have to be aware of," Roberts said.
Roberts said there is a saying within the fire department, "Try it before you pry it," which means that to save time the Jaws of Life may not always be necessary. Firefighters should first try to use their own strength to pry the door open.
"Every car or truck is unique in its own ways," Roberts told the children. "It may take two minutes to get the doors off one car and ten off another."
The campers also used using a fire extinguisher by way of a simulator and toured the Morris County Public Safety Training Academy. In addition, they received a class in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).
"They are the future of the fire service," Barrella said of the students. "It is important for them to understand what we do."
Koehler presented each of the children with a certificate of completion and thanked the firefighters for their dedication to duty and to community.
Students received T-shirts that firefighters paid for out of their own pockets.