After more than 10 years as a Girl Scout, 17-year-old Shelby knows a thing or two about going to camp.
As a member of Troop 1, which exposes older Girl Scouts to sailing, canoeing and whitewater rafting, the South Jordan teen has had plenty of high-adventure experiences.
But none provided her what Camp Fury did on Saturday: the chance to climb a 70-foot ladder off the back of a fire department truck.
“It felt amazing,” she said afterward. “This is the best Girl Scout camp I’ve ever been to.”
Lead by a team of female firefighters, Camp Fury offers a crew of 12 Girl Scouts a behind-the-scenes look at the skills and mettle needed for a career in public safety, including firefighting, police services and paramedics.
“It’s good for public safety to have women in the ranks,” said Martha Ellis, the camp’s founder and a 23-year veteran firefighter. “Women just bring a little something different to the table.”
But women still are a minority in the firehouse — making up only 7.3 percent of the nation’s 1.1 million firefighters, statistics show. Most girls often don’t even have a career in firefighting on their radar, Ellis said.
Ellis hopes Camp Fury will change that by exposing girls to Utah women working in the profession.
The camp is a perfect fit for the Utah Girl Scouts, which has adopted the acronym GIRL — go-getter, innovator, risk-taker and leader — and seeks to build courage, confidence, character in girls, said Claire Vitale, the statewide organization’s program director.
“This camp challenges girls in every way,” she said. “And we want them to see there are no female jobs and male jobs.”
A spinoff of a camp started by female firefighters in Arizona, the Utah version was established by Ellis in 2015 and partners with the Utah Girl Scouts.
“We bring the nozzles and the hoses and the ladders,” she said. “They bring a lot of amazing you women,” as well as logistical support and plenty of experience in dealing with campers.
The three-day camp starts with basic skills and safety training, including rudimentary first aid and ground ladder throwing, as well as the mechanics of hoses — how to connect the sections and hook them up to the water source. Campers also get a sense of what it feels like when waters starts to pump hard through a hose.
Day two gets more exciting, with rappelling and window jumping in full gear from the second story of a training center built from old shipping containers.
“We’re batting 1,000 so far on girls coming out of the window head first,” said Ellis, who became a firefighter at age 31 and was the first female battalion chief for Salt Lake City’s fire department.
By the third day, campers are adept at knots, throwing hoses, ladder climbing, and search and rescue, like crawling on their knees with blindfolds on to simulate the conditions firefighters often encounter going into smoky buildings that have no electricity.
By the end of camp, Ellis said she notices a marked difference in campers, who have grown new friendships, perspective and confidence.
DawnFaye Orullian, a paramedic-firefighter for West Valley City, was among the women coaching campers through skills on Saturday. A 13-year veteran of the fire service, Orullian said she’s been impressed by the girls’ enthusiasm.
“They’re doing things I never would have expected girls at their age to be doing,” she said. “And I think they are getting used to hearing, ‘Yeah, you can do that,’ rather than no.”
Abbie, a member of Troop 219 in Salt Lake City, said she was leaning toward a career in cosmetology before coming to camp. But in the past few days, the 15-year-old has developed an interest in the medical end of public safety and in dispatchers, who field 911 emergency calls.
Ladder climbing also helped her chip away at her longtime fear of heights.
“I guess I’m conquering my fears,” she said.
Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified the city where DawnFaye Orullian works.