Camp Fully Involved: ‘Fuel the fire that makes them want to be in the fire service” 

By JEANNE LESTERand GEOFF FORESTER

Monitor staff

Published: 08-03-2023 4:48 PM

No marshmallows will be toasted around the fire at Camp Fully Involved.

“Camp” for these young women from ages 14 to 20 takes place at the State Fire Academy and centers around building future skills for a career in firefighting or emergency medical services.

The week-long, hands-on, live-in experience attracts young women – an overlooked group to become potential firefighters – from all over New England and sometimes even farther. This year participants came as far as Minnesota and Illinois.

The immersive camp offers a taste of the essential aspects of fire service, including handling gear, wearing heavy breathing apparatus, using high-pressure water hoses, climbing ladders and rappelling with ropes, said co-directors Lisa Albino and Cristina Schoeck.

A main goal of the camp is to introduce fire service as a possible career to young women, whether full-time or on a volunteer basis. 

“For a lot of small towns there are volunteers, and it's a great way to give back to your community and to serve your community,”  Schoeck said. “We want them to learn and know that they have choices. They also learn that they are capable of so much more than they realize. They are challenged this week, and it is awesome to see them overcome these challenges and see how strong they are mentally and physically.”

Some of the young women attending camp have previous experience with “Explorer” programs, but not every town has such an opportunity and programs can vary greatly from town to town. Everyone attending Camp Fully Involved starts with a blank slate and learns the basics from the ground up. 

“Everybody graduates, but 60% of the graduates that we've had have continued on to some sort of fire service whether it be EMS, fire service, fire investigator, fire prevention, but they have gone into the fire service,” Albino said.

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Kayleigh Eastman was an explorer in high school when she learned about the program.

She came through as a cadet in 2014, went to college and got her Fire Science degree from Lakes Region Community College, and was then hired in Lebanon. From there she was sent to paramedic school and has since transitioned to become an instructor for the State Fire Academy. 

“It's always something different and it's always exciting, and you get to make a positive impact in the community,” Eastman said. “I think it's awesome to fuel the fire that makes them want to be in the fire service.”

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