Middle Park survival class plays with fire … safely
Fire safety tips have an extra poignancy when the discussion takes place in front of the enormous burn scar left by the human-caused East Troublesome Fire.
Grand Fire Protection District Assistant Chief Schelly Olson asked the Middle Park High School survival class how many people had to evacuate because of the fire. A few hands went up, including that of teacher CarrieAnn Mathis.
Olson herself lost her home in the fire, lending her fire safety tips a personal sentiment. She outlined tips for fire preparation and gave advice from her own experiences as well.
Mathis has been teaching a new outdoor survival class at Middle Park, which already has a waitlist. She’s structured the course around the elements, and this week focused on fire.
Students spent this week learning how to chop wood, build fires and creating their own bow drill fire starters — which didn’t quite work when students tried them out Thursday.
Grand Fire came out to teach students about fire preparation and how to put them out. Students each got the chance to learn how to properly use a fire extinguisher, taking turns dousing a small fire with the white spray.
Nearby, another group demonstrated their fire-building skills before Olson instructed them on how to properly put out a campfire. With wood they chopped themselves, students built fire configurations like the teepee and log cabin.
The high schoolers took turns covering the flames with dirt and dousing it with water. Olson had them feel the temperature of the smoldering pile with the back of their hands, explaining that a properly extinguished fire would no longer feel warm.
For students living in the “wildland-urban interface,” as Olson put it, an outdoor survival class is the perfect place to learn how to interact safely with the environment around them.
The class is open to all grades at the high school, and there are already plans to offer the already popular course next school year.
Mathis has worked hard to bring in local experts to this unique class, with her students learning how to tie knots at Two Pines Supply and plans to hold another workshop with Grand County Search and Rescue.
“I’m really trying to get the local community involved,” Mathis said.
Next week, the survival class students will meet with Army personnel to learn how to measure paces and complete a compass activity.
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Grand County’s emergency agencies will be gathering Saturday at the Rifle Shooting Range for wildfire training ahead of a fire season that’s expected to be heightened by dry and warm conditions.