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Kaneland Connection: Kaneland teens help make fire safety camp a success

Children participate in a drill during a summer camp at the Aurora Regional Fire Museum.
Children participate in a drill during a summer camp at the Aurora Regional Fire Museum.

Sabrina Sivert said she fretted a bit about her first day helping to run a summer camp at the Aurora Regional Fire Museum.

Sivert, a 17-year-old Maple Park resident, was among those who ultimately helped 1,200 Aurora students in first through fifth grades learn more about fire safety over four weeks.

The camp ended last week.

“I was giving tours of the museum, and I didn’t know a lot about it,” she said. “I was kind of nervous. … By the last day, I was sad it was over. Now, the speech we give, I have it memorized. I know it just like that.”

It was the first time the museum had put on such a camp, and organizers said it was a valuable experience for the children who attended and the teens who worked to put on the camp.

Many of the teens intend to one day become firefighters, including Sivert and another camp leader, Edgar Villafuerte, an 18-year-old of Elburn and a recent Kaneland graduate. They were among many who helped run the camp.

At the camp, Villafuerte said he worked at an activity called the combat challenge. He showed camp participants how firefighters must crawl, with their gear, because smoke rises and visibility is better when they stay low. Also, there was an exercise in which there was running while carrying hoses.

Sivert and Villafuerte both said they intend to become firefighters, and such experiences are helpful to them. Mark Baum, the vice president of the Aurora Regional Fire Museum Board of Directors, said part of the reason the camp took place was because he thought some of the children in the East Aurora School District might not previously have been to the museum. Also, he said, it was a way to let the kids know that they need not fear firefighters.

“I want them to respect the men and women who put their lives on the line every day,” Baum said.

Sivert and Villafuerte also have participated in the fire science program at the Fox Valley Career Center, which is at Kaneland High School.

Baum’s cousin, Gary Baum, is the fire safety instructor at the Fox Valley Career Center and also the deputy chief at the Fox River and Countryside Fire Protection District.

Sivert said she intends to become a firefighter and a paramedic.

Villafuerte said he has turned in applications at the Batavia and the Fox River and Countryside districts. Both credited the Fox Valley Career Center for helping in their quest to become firefighters.

Gary Baum said the fire safety program at the Fox Valley Career Center is in its ninth year.

He said there are 75 students enrolled, many from areas outside of Kaneland, including Burlington Central, St. Charles, Batavia, Geneva and West Aurora.

He said many come in intending to become firefighters, and he said there are about 40 who have taken the class now working at departments throughout the Fox Valley.

“Whether you decide to move forward or not, at least you have a greater appreciation for what the men and women of the fire service actually do,” he said.

• Al Lagattolla is the news editor of the Kane County Chronicle. Write to him at

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