Camp Spark, the Baltimore City Fire Department’s program for high school girls, officially returned programming to in-person programming this year. (Photo by Chris Carzoli on Unsplash)

By Kara Thompson,
Special to the AFRO

After a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic, Baltimore City Fire Department’s Camp Spark returned this summer. 

The two-day camp took place on July 30 and 31 this year, and is aimed at exposing girls ages 12 to 16 to careers in the fire department and the skills required to hold these jobs. 

The fire service camp was first launched in 2018 and “Spark” stands for the department’s goal of empowering young girls to be “smart, powerful, assertive, respectful” and “kind.”

Baltimore City Fire Chief Nile Ford “feels very passionate and strong about” more girls and women realizing that joining the fire department is something feasible for them to do, according to Blair Adams, Director of the Office of Communications & Community Engagement for the Baltimore City Fire Department.

“One of Chief Ford’s priorities are to make sure that we have a diverse, equitable and inclusive Fire Department and in doing so, we are continuously trying to attract and recruit more women to the field,” said Adams. “With Camp Spark, we are trying to start at a younger age to let young women know and make them aware that there are career opportunities within the fire service for you.”

One camper this year was 12-year-old Vivienne Howard, whose mother heard about the camp through social media and word of mouth.

“Initially, she was hesitant because I think a lot of times, young girls don’t think about the fire department and what the fire department actually does and all that it entails,” said Tanya Green, Vivienne’s mom. “Once she got to the orientation, [it] literally peaked and sparked everyone’s interest, not just the children who were able to attend but the parents and the families.”

Campers learned fire and life safety skills as well as hands-only CPR through hands-on simulations and experience. Adams said they received “both fire and EMT training” during the camp. 

“They [had] experience [of] not just seeing how heavy or feeling the weight of a water hose, but it actually being utilized and seeing how heavy and challenging something like that can be,” said Adams. 

Green was appreciative of how much her daughter learned, especially in her ability to bring it back home to apply to their life. 

“She came home and started checking the smoke alarm, looking at the exits and looking at locks, thinking about the door and ‘is the door fireproof’ – a lot of questions that, to be honest, I’ve never thought about. She really came home more informed,” said Green.

In addition to the hands-on training, campers had the chance to talk to department members about their role and how they got started in this line of work.

“It’s an opportunity for the young girls to sit down with our camp counselors and have those one-on-one conversations or group conversations with women who are working in the fire department,” Adams said.

Another skill emphasized during the camp was the importance of leadership, something Green was proud to see her daughter go on to receive an award for. 

“As parents, we really try to instill those leadership values, the work ethic into our children,” Green said. “To see it all come to fruition to see her leadership shine…that was really a large part of what I enjoyed, but what she also enjoyed.”

In the future, Howard plans on being a neurologist. But she’s using the skills she learned at Camp Spark, such as the CPR and EMT training, as building blocks to start the path to her future career. 

In the future, Howard said she hopes to be a volunteer firefighter or EMT—an interest she picked up in Camp Spark. In the meantime, Howard will continue to attend the camp in the years to come.

“This, for me, was so very meaningful. It brought out her leadership, it brought out her work ethic. I saw her excitement about getting up early and being there on time. I saw the motivation, I saw the energy,” Green said. “I appreciated the time, the effort and the knowledge that the fire department team provided to our children. It was practical, and it’s resonating with them.”

For more information on Camp Spark, please visit .

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