The Future of Firefighting

by | Jun 27, 2023 | Kids, Online Exclusives, Surf City

Surf City Fire Department will host its first Kids Recruit Academy for ages 7 to 11 in August.

Looking for something a little different for kids to do in Surf City this year? How about donning some turnout gear, joining a platoon of firefighters and even watching a medical helicopter in action? These are just some of the activities planned for the Surf City Fire Department’s first annual Kids Recruit Academy.

Lt. Timothy VanPelt, who oversees community programs for the fire department, came up with the idea for the academy. He says he had seen other camps on which he based the week’s plans but adds, “We’ll do ours a little differently.” He emphasizes that the Kids Recruit Academy will be like going through an actual fire academy.

The free camp is designed for children ages 7 to 11.

Although it will be a fun week for the kids involved, it will also be “a little more physical activity based, as though we’re going to hire them,” VanPelt says. One of the main goals is to develop a sense of teamwork among the “trainees.” They will rely on each other as part of a platoon of recruits, rather than simply doing fun activities on their own.

Twenty children will be picked to participate, out of the many applications the department has already received. They will be split into two platoons of 10 kids each. Then they will work together as a team to get through certain activities. VanPelt says the academy may help to instill desire in the kids, “letting them know they can be firefighters.”

In particular, the camp will give equal opportunities for young girls to participate and learn more about becoming a firefighter. “It will let them know they can do the same as the boys,” VanPelt says. Today, there are not many females involved in firefighting, but it could be a career choice for them as well.

As he sorts through the many applications he has already received, VanPelt is focused on good representation. “We want to be sure we cover each age group and make it fair for boys and girls,” he says.

Camp Surf City Fire Department

During the camp, the kids will provide their own lunch, will be issued uniforms and turnout gear and will participate in something different each day. The day will start out with a short exercise period and uniform checks, just as it would in a real recruit academy. The kids will be responsible for ensuring they have their gear with them every day. Teamwork will be reinforced as each child will “not just be depending on themselves, but the whole group is depending on them,” VanPelt says.

Activities will include watching the maneuvers of a medical helicopter and going over basic first aid, making a rough outline of a one-story house and then learning how to search the house and remove someone from the house, and learning about ocean rescue on the beach. “Each day will be very hands on,” VanPelt says.

When the week is done, the kids will participate in a graduation ceremony. Just as in a real fire academy, they will each choose a special person in their life to pin a badge on them, to show they are now part of the department. “They pick someone important to them to signify they made it through,” VanPelt says.

This is the first recruit academy for kids hosted by the Surf City Fire Department, and there are plans to make it an annual event. In fact, if it goes well enough and if there is interest among families in the area, VanPelt says it may become a more frequent camp, perhaps scheduled for multiple times throughout the year, such as during spring break.

Want to go?
First Annual Surf City Fire Department Kids Recruit Academy
Monday, August 14 to Friday, August 18
9 am to 1 pm
Surf City Fire Station 25
Applications for the Kids Recruit Academy will be accepted through June 23.
For information and an application, contact Lt. Tim VanPelt at or visit:

About the author

Pat Fontana

Pat Fontana

I am a business writer and communications workshop leader. My business, WordsWorking, and my recently published book, Talk to Me Like I’m a Human, focus on improving workplace communications, concentrating on the fundamentals of human interactions. I developed, write about and train on the concept of REAL Communications, encouraging others to communicate with Respect and Empathy, paying close Attention and Listening with intent. I can be reached at