Fire Stories

Fire stories from the national parks highlight events, incidents, and the like, associated with fire and fuels management, as well as fire education, technology, partnerships, and more. Stories highlight work related to Department of the Interior initiatives as well as local and regional initiatives.

Kaylee Payne reads a sling psychrometer.

Hot Shots in Training; a Summer Camp Success

Mammoth Cave National Park, Kentucky
National Fire Plan, Accountability*

Could a 12 year-old be a Hot Shot? It was a reality at Mammoth Cave National Park's (MACA) first Hot Shots camp. For one week in July, ten young minds from Kentucky's Barren County Middle School (BCMS) got intensive "training" in the exciting and complex nature of fire and firefighting at a summer camp aptly named "Hot Shots."

Environmental Education Rangers Sarah Talley and Jennifer Shackelford developed the Hot Shots camp in hopes of fostering a greater understanding of why and how fire is used to manage the parklands. "We thought it would be an exciting topic" what middle schooler wouldn't want to learn about fire?" said Talley.

"Thanks to the Hot Shots camp, these ten campers had a chance to experience a wildland firefighter's job and learn about the role fire plays in the National Park Service," said Patrick H. Reed, Mammoth Cave Superintendent.

Campers Cassie Gray and Reagan Taylor compete to build a fire. Click for a larger version.

The students took part in a wide variety of activities throughout the week. The campers performed scientific experiments with the fire triangle, visited a prescribed burn site, competed in fire-building, and role-played a fire history game. The students eventually took on the role of firefighter trainee by learning basic firefighting terminology, firefighter safety, and fire behavior concepts like weather, topography, and fuels.

"The highlight of the camp for most of the students was the Fire Field Day during the last day of camp," said Shackelford. Throughout the day, the Hot Shots campers each completed a firefighting task book designed especially for the camp. They demonstrated skills such as using hand tools, belt weather kits, and fire shelters. Parents and family members of the Hot Shots campers were invited to participate in these activities along with the students.

Talley and Shackelford were assisted in the Fire Field Day by Mammoth Cave's Fire Management Officer, Rich Caldwell, and other park firefighters. Shackelford noted, "It was thanks to these guys that the day was such a big success." Members of the MACA fire crew demonstrated the use of a number of different fire tools, schooled them on the functions of the wildland fire engine, and assisted with the modified pack test.

Joshua Doyle tries on a fire pack during Fire Field Day. Click for a larger version.

Talley and Shackelford received positive feedback from the students. An eager Seth Chapman told them, "I'm definitely going to be a firefighter when I grow up!" Gary Gardner, BCMS employee and chaperone, was impressed with all that the students learned. "No matter what you asked, there was someone who knew the answer. It seemed like they were all saying 'Hey, let me show you what I know!'"

The Hot Shots camp was one of three different camps developed and facilitated by Rangers Talley and Shackelford through a partnership between the Environmental Education Office at Mammoth Cave and BCMS. The school is a recipient of a 21st Century Learning Center Grant, which paid all student expenses. The Mammoth Cave Environmental Education Office and BCMS also offered two other summer camps through this grant: "Water Wonders," dealing with the importance of water in the park and "Explorers," which focused on cave exploration and backcountry orienteering.

Contact: Cheryl Messenger, Education Specialist
Phone: (270) 758-2441

*This story supports Department of the Interior initiatives.