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Girl Scouts learn the ropes of fighting fires

Girl Scout Paige Joyce 7 Hobart suits up firefighter gear with assistance troop leader Kim Tepavcevich for relay during firefighter

Girl Scout Paige Joyce, 7, of Hobart, suits up in firefighter gear with the assistance of troop leader Kim Tepavcevich for a relay during a firefighter program Saturday at West Beach.

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The next Junior Wildland Firefighter program will be held at 10 a.m. Aug. 10 at Dunewood campground in Beverly Shores. For more information on the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, go to www.nps.gov/indu/index.htm.

Updated: August 30, 2013 6:48AM



PORTAGE — Paige Joyce, 7, of Hobart, may not be a firefighter for the National Park Service, but she can definitely play the role.

She can quickly don a helmet, jacket and backpack of gear, then take off toward the flames — fake, of course — and spray them down.

She and other members of Girl Scout Troop 30026 from Hobart learned more about bad and good fires, and the benefits of the good ones, Saturday during a Junior Wildland Firefighter program at West Beach in the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.

The lakeshore has a staff of 16 firefighters, said Micah Bell, the park’s fire prevention technician. In addition to protecting the park from wildfires, the firefighters conduct controlled burns, which was the focus of his program.

Wildfires are bad fires, he told the Girl Scouts, while campfires and controlled fires, used in the spring and fall to clear brush and open low-lying plants to sunlight, are good fires.

Controlled fires, he told the girls, are like cleaning a bedroom.

“They are setting fire to the woods because sometimes, there’s just too much stuff out there,” he said.

The endangered Karner blue butterfly’s larva depend on lupine to survive, a plant that, in turn, needs sun to thrive.

“In order to make sure we get lots of the butterflies, we have to make sure there’s lots of lupine for the larvae to eat. And we have to set fire to the woods sometimes because lupine need lots and lots of sunshine,” Bell said. “Isn’t that crazy? In order to make sure we have lots of the butterflies, we have to burn part of the woods sometimes.”

Paige liked the relay to put out the fake flames and putting on the firefighter gear, and climbing into the fire truck. Most importantly of all, though, she learned the lesson at hand.

“There’s different kinds of fires, good fires and bad fires,” she said.



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