Camp Supports Future Female Firefighters and Police Officers

Teenage girls from across Arizona are training with female firefighters and law enforcement officers at Camp Fury in Tucson, a five-day experience designed to encourage and empower girls interested in the male-dominated field of public safety.

Several teenage girls spent time at Camp Fury, a five-day camp in Tucson that encourages and empowers girls interested in male-dominated fields of public safety. Pinar Istek/NYT Institute

The Girl Scouts of Southern Arizona partners with local law enforcement and fire-fighting agencies to host 24 girls, ages 13 to 19, for sleep-away camp at the Public Safety Academy on the city’s southeast side.

Girls are taught crime scene investigation and self-defense skills, and do firefighting drills.

“The objective of Camp Fury is to give options to young women that weren’t there when most of us started,” said Sgt. Amber Kingman of the Tucson Police Department. About 10 percent of the department’s officers are women, she said. “I had people doubting me,” she recalled. “It was a challenge and unfortunately still is.”

Laura Baker, an assistant chief with the Tucson Fire Department, and Cheryl Horvath, a district division chief with Northwest Fire District, created Camp Fury in 2009 because they saw so few women in their professions.

“Our role is to try to just let the girls know that they can go into some of these nontraditional careers,” Chief Baker said. Only 5 percent of T.F.D. firefighters are women, she said.

Chief Horvath said, “We need to have good problem-solving skills, good multitaskers, and I think women are both of those things.”

The girls spent their third afternoon moving through firefighting activities in the 95-degree heat. Cheers kept the energy high.

Kaylene Crandau, 15, climbed a 75-foot-long aerial ladder that extended diagonally from the top of a truck and about 60 feet into the air. She descended the ladder, hopped down from the truck and burst into tears.

Staff members and campers gathered around her, speaking at once.

“What you are feeling now is a rush of adrenaline.”

“You did great!”

“Breathe in and breathe out through the nose.”

Campers hugged her as she calmed down. “It was scary because I am afraid of heights,” Kaylene said. “I was proud of myself.”

That is the point, said Alexandra Healy, a membership specialist at the Girl Scouts of Southern Arizona. “She did something today that she didn’t think she could do this morning.”

The staff and the girls wore blue shirts with the Girl Scouts’ motto imprinted on them: “Courage, character and confidence.”

“That’s exactly what we are trying to ignite in these girls,” Chief Baker said.

Campers rappelled down a six-story building. “It was great, you know, it was heart-beating, but it was amazing,” said 14-year-old Kimberly Piña. She wants to follow her uncle into law enforcement.

Camp Fury has served as a model for others in the country. It was replicated in Yuma, Ariz., and Hampton, Va., and will be held this August in Charlotte, N.C.

Sgt. Kim Scott of the Mesa Police Department said she came to Camp Fury
because her department planned to create a program like it in the Phoenix area.

“It is amazing,” she said, “because it empowers girls to have confidence and to think out of the box.”