KATY MAGAZINE NEWS
June 17, 2022
By Natalie Cook Clark
Harris County ESD No. 48 Fire-EMS (HCESD48) hosted Camp Spark, Katy’s first all-girls firefighter and EMS camp this week. The free camp was designed to educate and inspire a new generation of female first responders.
Photo Credits: Jason Tharp
3 Days of Fun, Skill, and Inspiration
18 Katy young ladies from the ages 14 to 18 met this week for the areas first all-girls firefighter and EMS camp. Camp Spark participants enjoyed physical training, classes and Fire/EMS simulations taught in fun-filled ways during the 3-day camp.
Inspiring a New Generation of First Responders
“I didn’t expect to learn so much about the firefighters and what they do,” says 14-year-old Kaylee Chavez, who attends Cinco Ranch High School.
Camp Spark was developed from an idea that Jason Tharp, HCESD48 Battalion Chief of Community Risk Reduction and Public Information Officer, heard about at a conference and then thought something like this would benefit the Katy community and the future of first responders and EMS.
“We see a lot of young boys that want to be firefighters, police, and professional sports players. They often dress up for Halloween and play in the costume until it no longer fits, I know my boys did, but what about our young ladies?” says Tharp.
Camp Spark participants had the chance to ask questions, train, and interact with female firefighters and medics from HCESD48 and other Great Houston Area departments.
“We had female instructors from not only our agency, but other agencies like Katy Fire Department, Harris County Fire Marshal’s Office, and Community Volunteer Fire Department,” says Tharp. “You wouldn’t know some of them have never worked together. It was amazing to witness them be so passionate about this camp. They are the reason the camp was so successful.”
The camp also received support from neighboring departments showing how much the success of the camp meant to other agencies. Supply shortages interfered with the camps ability to get rental firefighter coats, pants, and boots in smaller sizes local agencies like the Community Volunteer Fire Department and Cypress Creek Fire Department stepped up to loan gear. Every participating girl had a set to wear.
Seeing What's Possible
The camp attracted a variety of girls. While Chavez always wanted to go into the medical field, learning more about first responders and EMS and what they do was important to her. Another participant, 16-year-old Penelope Frank signed up since her mother worked for Toyota of Katy (the local business who sponsored the event,) but through the camp experienced a change of heart.
“Before Camp Spark, being a first responder never crossed my mind,” says Penelope Frank, who attends James E. Taylor High School. “But I got to see what they do, and now being a first responder is definitely something I’ll be considering.”
The girls got to experience many tasks that first responders do to keep our community safe including a visit by a life flight helicopter when one flew into the camp. Participants got to look inside and hear about what they really do.
“I wasn’t expecting to learn all the ways there are to save a person’s life whenever they can’t breathe other than just CPR and how EMS is always working against time,” says Frank.
On the last day the girls took all that they had learned and participated in a competition to test their skills including ladders, hoses, CPR, and bleeding control. They then competed against the instructors. It was such a fun event that when giving feedback for future camps they suggested having more competitions.
This camp showed young ladies what is possible for them in a field still seen as a man’s career.
"This is our community and these girls are OUR future,” says EMS Training Captain Marina Rolon. “Women in fire/EMS can show these ladies how to break stereotypes in this career field, execute mental toughness, and demonstrate how women stand together in this field. I was excited to share the importance of paramedicine and the fire service within our community!”
Katy’s first every Camp Spark had a successfully week and the department and their partners are already looking ahead to the first one.
“This is a camp that I would recommend to other Katy girls, especially if you are on the iffy side and not sure if you want to do a career as a first responder,” says Chevez.
Frank believes Camp Spark does more than train the next generation but help girls develop a better appreciation for first responders.
“It’s so amazing to be able to see what it is that these first responders have to go through and what they go to save another person’s life,” says Frank. “Even if you’re not interested in being a first responder, Camp Spark is a great experience and I’m so glad I joined.”
Yesterday, Camp Spark held a graduation and the station was full of family and friends out to support these girls and what they learned this week.
“When the young ladies entered through the doors Tuesday morning you could tell that some very nervous, but it didn’t take long for them to get out of their comfort zone,” says Tharp. “That was really fun to watch.”