San Francisco Blaze 2002
By: Karen Kerr and Alissa Van Nort
Maybe you have seen our flier in the firehouse or read about our presentation to the Fire Commission, here is the short and long about Camp Blaze. Camp Blaze is a leadership firecamp for young women aged 16-19. This year we are being sponsored by the San Francisco Fire Department with camp in session July 6-13, 2002, on Treasure Island in the San Francisco Bay. The mission of Blaze is to develop, support, and implement an annual camp for young women in a fire service environment. The Blaze planning board represents the Seattle Fire Department, the San Francisco Fire Department, the Boulder, Colorado Fire Department, San Diego Fire and Life Safety, the Fort Worth Fire Department, and the California Department of Forestry and Fire.

Blaze is a non-profit organization founded two years ago by eight women firefighters from five departments across the country, including Alissa Van Nort and Karen Kerr from the San Francisco Fire Department. Last summer, the first Blaze firecamp-hosted by the Seattle Fire Department in North Bend, Washington the week of July 7-13, 2001-was a tremendous success. A team of four of us-including Alison Greene (SFFD) and Jenny Ray (OFD), both counselors at Seattle Blaze 2001-wanted to see the camp come to San Francisco and are collectively the Committee for San Francisco Blaze 2002. Without any explorer or cadet program in San Francisco or Oakland, Blaze seemed especially well suited for the Bay Area.

Planning for San Francisco Blaze 2002 is well underway. We will be training at the SFFD training facility on Treasure Island. We are working closely with Captain Russ Albano and Chief Joanne Hayes-White to accommodate and support our curriculum. Job Corps is partnering with us providing a residential building to house the camp staff and campers and access to the Job Corps cafeteria during their summer break. The entire Blaze staff is comprised of firefighters from the Bay Area and around the country who donate their time and energy as instructors, counselors, camp medics, skilled volunteers for a day or two or the entire week, or general volunteers, pitching in as needed. Volunteers are already hard at work at various tasks in preparation for this summer's camp session.

We need your assistance in getting the word out to any potentially interested young women you know or work with in your communities or neighborhoods. Campers from anywhere in the U.S. are encouraged to apply. Camper applications are due by May 1st and can be found online at our website Our outreach efforts are not restricted to San Francisco; we are also collaborating with other fire departments and communities in the Bay Area, from San Jose to Sacramento.

The weeklong firecamp is demanding and includes a strenuous, exciting series of activities; many of them modeled on what professional firefighters go through during cadet training. Girls will have an opportunity to use real firefighting equipment under the supervision of active firefighters and officers. Exercises, classes, and activities include:

* Team-building
* Introduction to personal protective equipment
* Use of an SCBA
* Tools and ladders
* Fire behavior
* Search and rescue techniques
* Handling ropes and knots
* CPR certification
* Rappelling and aerial ladder climbing
* Portable fire extinguisher use
* Live fire training and fire suppression
* Self-defense
* Interviewing and test-taking skills

The goal of the program is to empower and build confidence in teen girls through personal experiences in team building and physical training, which will increase self-sufficiency-not only as young women, but also as potential, future firefighters. We also aim to:

* Help girls develop a sound work ethic
* Broaden their skill sets and problem-solving abilities
* Educate girls in safety, first aid and emergency response
* Model positive, strong leadership
* Have fun in a camp environment.

We are an independent project of Women in the Fire Service, Inc., a national non-profit organization, with all Blaze funds coming from donations and grants. Each year, we raise enough to fund every camper's costs, so no camper pays anything beyond the $25 application fee (which can be waived according to need). All expenses for the week-including housing, safety gear, camp uniforms, food, and training-are paid for through our fundraising and in-kind donations to our organization.

We encourage community members and organizations interested in sponsoring a young woman's attendance at camp to do so by donating $500 to our organization to cover the camper's expenses. Donations of any size are welcome, and all are tax-deductible. IRS tax-exempt letters will be sent to all donors. All fundraising and donation assistance is welcome. In addition to cash donations, we may need to borrow gear for the campers (especially in smaller sizes) for the week camp is in session.

Please let us know if you wish to contribute in any way to Camp Blaze 2002. In addition to financial support, we welcome anyone interested in helping with camp preparation or volunteering during camp this summer. Please contact Camp Blaze at 415-646-0711.

Photo provided by Karen Kerr


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