Teen girls train with firefighters at Charlotte Fire Department’s Camp Ignite

CHARLOTTE — For four days, 21 teenage girls called Charlotte Fire Department’s training academy home as part of a program called Camp Ignite.

“We got introduced to a lot of the stuff that they do, everyday life, what they do on calls,” said Talor Lee, a former camper who is now a camp instructor and firefighter with CFD.

Campers lived in air-conditioned tents on the grounds of the academy. They trained alongside professional female firefighters to learn skills like search and rescue techniques, how to operate fire hoses, and how to climb fire ladders.

One of the most significant moments of the camp is when the young women are given the chance to repel from the side of a fire tower while their peers cheer them on.

“I love how they encourage young ladies to do whatever they want to do and chase their goals,” camper Kalanii Robinson said.

“I would tell anyone that doesn’t even have interest in firefighting to do this because you never know what it will spark in you,” Lee said. “It definitely sparked something in me.”

Camp Coordinator Venessa Roy said Camp Ignite is about facing your fears, building confidence, and making connections.

“We don’t expect all these girls to want to be firefighters but we want to show them that it is a possibility,” Roy said. “If you don’t grow up with it, you don’t think it’s something you can do because you primarily see men.”

Charlotte Fire Department recruits women of all backgrounds, and campers said they appreciate the representation.

“I think it’s great because you know firefighting it’s 96% male-dominated,” said camper Caroline Stowe. “Having this camp to show us that we can do it if we want to is really empowering to be a part of.”

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