Lockelyn Wright, 13, extinguished fires and practiced rescuing people trapped in burning homes last week at Copperas Cove Fire Station 3.

Lockelyn’s father was a firefighter, and now, Lockelyn aspires to be one. “As soon as I turn 18, I’m going to start working here,” he said.

Last week, the Copperas Cove Fire Department hosted its seventh annual Mentoring Industrious Minds and Educating Students program, a weeklong mentorship between firefighters and 13- and 14-year-old children. Twelves students enrolled in last week’s program and another 12 will join firefighters for the same courses later this month.

“This answers the ‘why’ questions that kids have: ‘Why do I need to know math, science and history to be a firefighter?’” said Cove Division Fire Chief James Piper.

Students and firefighters used algebra to calculate the pressure of air and nitrogen needed during various fire situations, Piper said. They also discussed Cove Fire Department traditions and the science behind EMS training.

“They experienced almost every aspect of being a firefighter, even cleaning up after themselves and others after lunch,” Piper said.

Friday was the last day of the training. Firefighters guided the youths as they used a fire extinguisher to put out a fire in a copper bin.

Approaching the fire in groups of three, one student walked in front as the other two walked behind holding on to his shoulders.

The front man was responsible for performing PASS: Pull the stick. Aim the fire extinguisher. Squeeze the nozzle. Sweep the fire extinguisher.

“They’ve been learning about the gear all week,” Piper said. “Now they’re just using their skills in action.”

Sophia Caro tapped the bottom of her fist on the top of Hayley Brown’s fist and Hayley did the same. Then they tapped knuckles and released with explosion motion and noise. “This lets us know, you got my back, I’ve got yours,” Sophia said.

Sophia, 14, and Hayley, 14, wore bunker gear as they crouched on their knees and crawled in a dark room full of smoke. Sophia entered first, as Hayley held on to Sophia’s right shoulder. They saw only a smoggy black room. They could not see three feet ahead and immediately reached their arms out in front of them in search of a wall.

They were taught to use the wall for guidance as they maneuver through a burning home to rescue patients. The smoke and lack of sight quickly caused disorientation. About 10 minutes later, Sophia and Hayley exited the smoky room, lifted their masks and took deep breaths. They were hot and tired.

“We found a baby,” Hayley said, referring to a doll used in the exercise. “I carried it out.”

She said it was difficult to crawl with a baby in her arms because she could only use one hand to balance herself.

Sophia and Hayley are considering careers in firefighting. “You get to be called a hero,” Sophia said.

Herald/Mary Mejia

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