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A reflection on the BCPFF Burn CampPosted: August 11, 2012

By Murray Robertson

British Columbia Professional Fire Fighters Burn Camp 2012

I have returned from my second year as a counselor at Burn Camp, what a truly humbling experience.   This year Burn Camp consisted of 76 kids (69 last year), aged 6-18 mostly from British Columbia and as far away as Whitehorse.   Burn camp was located at Camp Latona on Gambier Island this year.

In my group there were 10 male campers aged 6-9, five counselors and one junior counselor.  In our cabin we had seven returning campers and three new campers.  Several of the new campers had never been away from home before but were welcomed with open arms from the returning kids.   Each one of these kids has gone through one of the most painful and traumatic injuries that anyone can ever experience, some when they were less than a year old.  One of the campers had fairly recent burns and we were tasked with changing the pressure garments when required.  Pressure garments are needed to reduce the amount of scarring on the patient and it helps increase healing time.

Campers took part in challenge activities which are designed to push the campers past their comfort zone.  Activities such as zip lines and ropes suspended thirty feet in the air challenge the campers.  Activities are designed so that campers can get to know each other and bond with the others at camp.  This enables the campers to understand that they are not the only person who has suffered the trauma of a burn.     This camp is an emotional healing platform for many of the kids that attend and talking to some of the older campers a necessary week where they can retain their contact with their second family.  To see how the campers have evolved over the year and how their self esteem has increased was staggering.  Kids that show up reserved are soon dancing and singing on their chairs during meals.

One of the new campers whose burns were so fresh that he was wheel chair bound was burned earlier this year.  The doctors and nurses pushed to get this camper to camp as they could see him withdrawing from them while he was being treated in the hospital.  It was a huge undertaking for the medical staff and counselors to get him to camp but it was worth it to see him come out of his shell and interact with the other campers. It really puts your life into perspective when kids who have been challenged with one of the most painful and traumatic experiences in life can go around all day with a smile on their face.

The most amazing young adults who I have ever had the opportunity to interact with were the Junior Counselors.  They assist the counselors, are aged 19 to 22 and are all graduates of the Burn Camp who wish to come back and be a positive role model to the younger campers.   Picture yourself to be a twenty year old with life altering burn who has embraced their burn and choose to help younger kids come to terms with their burns.  It is overwhelming to see how they carry themselves and how the younger kids look up to them.  One junior counselor who has burns to the majority of his upper body proudly walks around the beach with no shirt on to show the younger campers that burn scars are nothing to be embarrassed about.

Most of the burn stories that I heard at the camp were very preventable injuries.  Whether caused by electricity, candles, hot liquids, camp fires or playing with flammable substances, most of the burns could have been easily prevented with a little education or parental supervision.  Fire Prevention /Burn Awareness are very important subjects that all families should discuss with their children and it is important to eliminate the opportunity for children to play with fire.

For more information on fire prevention/burn awareness;

Please visit or call the Cranbrook Fire department at 250-426-2325

If you are in contact with toddlers please watch the “Too Hot for Tots’ video on the Burn Fund Website  It is an educational video on how to prevent burns and scalds to toddlers.  One of the campers that was in my group was featured in the video.

Murray Robertson

Local Burn Fund Rep

Cranbrook Fire Dept



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