Each year since 1993, three groups of firefighters—the Professional Firefighters of Utah, Salt Lake Valley Firefighters Association, and the Utah State Firefighters Association—have contributed financial support to the University Health Care Burn Center Burn Camp program. The firefighters hold an annual chili cook off, open to the public, where up to 20 different firefighter unions set up tents, bring in their various pots of chili, and hold a contest to see who has the best. Funds raised at the event go directly to the Burn Camp.
Five different camps, each serving roughly 35 participants at a time, are designed to offer activities in building self-esteem, teamwork, and peer interaction, thereby providing an environment conducive to healing. The camps give participants an opportunity to be with others who have had similar experiences with burn trauma and provide the tools needed to not only survive the injury, but also to thrive in the recovery process.
Since 1999 one of those five camps, Camp Nah Nah Mah’ (Ute for “togetherness in friendship”), has offered an array of activities to children ages 6-12 who have suffered burn trauma, and support for the wide range of challenges they face during recovery and after. Camp staff at Nah Nah Mah,’ which is located at Tracy Wigwam in Millcreek Canyon, includes professional nurses, physical therapists, and volunteers. It also includes the firefighters, who in addition to their financial contributions, take turns providing daily meals at the camp.
The U’s burn camp program was founded by Brad Wiggins, nurse manager, and Ron Fife, Salt Lake City Fire Department battalion chief. Brad started at Burn Camp as a counselor in 1993 and that next year, became the director of programming. Then, with an amazing team of volunteers from the Burn Center, he created the four additional camp programs.
Today, nearly 100 survivors across all five programs participate each year. “I love burn camp for many reasons, but the biggest reason of all is being able to help survivors to recover from their injuries,” says Brad. “Burn patients and firefighters have a unique relationship that goes deeper than many others—for both parties—as it defines the success of surviving and thriving after the injury. We look forward to the future with our family and community of firefighters!”