Teen girls train hard at 2-day Los Angeles Fire Department firefighter camp

PANORAMA CITY, LOS ANGELES -- Dozens of girls experienced what it was like to become a firefighter as they participated in Los Angeles Fire Department's Girls Camp.

Aamiyah Beridon, 16, spent her weekend learning what it takes to be part of the department. She was one of 92 girls between the ages of 14 and 18 who took part in the two-day crash-course.

"I like helping people. I don't like to see other people hurt and down. I like to see everybody happy, equal," she said. "I just wanted to get the experience really, just to like climb on top of buildings, going to fires, helping people, saving people's lives."

The campers took over the LAFD Academy in Panorama City, wearing fire gear and learning to use real firefighting tools. LAFD Chief Ralph Terrazas and Councilwoman Nury Martinez were on hand Saturday morning to kick off the camp.

Then the girls began their training under the direction of women firefighters like Samantha Ralston.

"We let them hold chainsaws, climb ladders, just get a feel for the equipment. Just encourage them to try something new and step out of their comfort zone and have fun with their friends," she said.

LAFD Battalion Chief Kristina Kepner echoed those sentiments.

"Empower them to know that they can do whatever they want. They can be anything they want to be. Our motto is if you can see it, you can be it," she said.

The fire department is traditionally a male-dominated field, but thanks to recruitment efforts such as the camp, the goal is to make LAFD more representative of the community it serves.

"The more diverse of a department that we have, the better we can serve the various communities that we have in Los Angeles. To be able to empathize and be compassionate with each of those different communities really helps us in how we serve the public," Kepner said.

LAFD holds two girls camps a year - one in the spring and one in the fall. The next one will take place in the San Pedro area.
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