Varner attends West Virginia Junior Fire Academy
Durbin resident Jessica Varner has the blood of a firefighter in her veins. As daughter of Bartow-Frank-Durbin Volunteer Fire Department's current chief, Buster Varner, Jessica has been around the fire department her entire life and is a junior member of the BFD.
This summer, Varner attended the West Virginia Junior Fire Academy in Jackson's Mill at the WVU State Fire Academy.
As one of the first students to use the facility, the 17-year-old participated in simulations including rescues and fire fighting.
"We got to cut people out of a car and make sure the car was safe to be around," she said. "I also put on a harness and was lowered into a tight hole for a confined space rescue. We fought a plane fire, did a rope rescue, water rescue and search and rescue."
Along with rescue and fire fighting training, the academy offered EMS training.
"All of us got our First Aid and CPR cards," Varner said. "We learned how to put people on back boards."
On the last night of camp, all the students worked together to fight a blaze that had been set for that purpose.
Adding a little fun to the training, the academy had "fire games" for the students.
"We got to play a bunch of games like who can put their gear on the fastest or who can roll the hose up the fastest," Varner said.
Although the training lasted only a week, Varner said the experience has left her with friends from all over the country that she considers her brothers and sisters.
"It was a very cool camp because the girls were just like the boys," she said. "The boys didn't pick on the girls and say we couldn't do anything. They worked with us and treated us as equals."
Varner has just one message for any aspiring junior firefighters.
"If anyone likes this kind of stuff, they should definitely go to this camp, they would enjoy it," she said.
The academy, owned by the WVU Fire Service Extension, trains more than 2,000 firefighters and first-responders every year.
The facility offers training with the mobile structural fire trainer and the mobile aircraft fire trainer. For more information on the academy, visit the WVU Fire Service Extension at http://ext.wvu.edu/businesses/conference_facilities/wvu_state_fire_academy.