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Annual burn camp deemed a success

Local firefighters, with the help of volunteers and sponsors, fed about 225 people during the 25th annual Oklahoma Firefighters Burn Camp this past weekend.


Keys Fire Chief Yogi Cole said the prediction of Saturday’s weather influenced the event’s turnout.


“There were a few kids that I was told that had dropped out last minute because of the high heat and there might have been a couple that stayed back at camp,” Cole said. “The heat played a negative role, at least the prediction, because it was supposed to be 102 [degrees].”


Cole said the Cookson Fire Department cooked and provided the campers' breakfast, while the Keys department cooked barbecue.


“Our primary function was lunch and we fed about 225 people altogether,” Cole said.


The burn camp was established in 1999 and it provides children, who are burn survivors, a chance to make new friends with others like them. According to their website, adult burn victims donate their time to show the children their scars don’t limit their ability to succeed in life.


"We've been very proud for the last three years to be able to provide lunch and Cookson FD providing breakfast, and that allows the burn camp organization to not have to worry about this. We're going to take care of them," Cole said.


Cole said the annual event is a networking opportunity for the kids to get together with other kids who have had the same misfortune.


“There was going to be around 40 kids and that number dropped down this year, which has been pretty consistent in the last two or three years post-COVID-19. It had climbed back up some and there used to be around 50 [campers],” he said.


The camp used to be held at Frontier Cove until it was moved to Camp Egan in Tahlequah. Campers arrived Wednesday, Aug. 2 and were there until Sunday, Aug. 6.


Campers are taken swimming, fishing and hiking, and create arts and crafts. They also get to hang out with firefighters from across the state.


“They had a bass league and it’s whatever they can catch. Somebody brought in twenty-something sand bass they caught. Then they do a weigh-in and they have lots of categories for everyone, so everybody gets something,” Cole said.


Cobblers were donated by Schwan’s Company out of Stilwell, Mountain View Meat Company donated links, Great Southwestern Construction and the UPS Store in Tahlequah purchased food items.


“Cherokee Nation had an ambulance on standby and Cherokee Nation Emergency Management brought out an enclosed air-conditioned trailer for people to come in and cool down. It was absolutely great that they brought that out for us,” Cole said.


The Oklahoma Highway Patrol brough out an airboat to the event, but Cole said OHP didn’t have as much of a presence Saturday, understandably so, as it was also Retired Trooper Boyd Walker’s funeral.


“Tahlequah Fire Department was on standby for us. If we would have had a call, we might not have been able to peel anybody off and they were covering our calls for us for a period there,” Cole said. “It’s all of us working together and that’s what we do.”


Scholarships are given away to campers who will be attending college.

Chelsea Foster, left, and Jerry Hooper worked together to hold down a tent after gusty winds picked up at Cherokee Landing on Saturday, Aug. 5.
Courtesy Photo | Jamie Houston

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