On Wednesday afternoon Kobe Sheridan got to interview a fireman.

His friend rolled the camera as Sheridan and his subject sat on the end of a fire truck, having an easy discussion.

Sheridan spoke like a natural, especially considering this was the first time the 9-year-old had ever questioned someone on camera.

"I mostly interviewed today," Sheridan said. "My teacher said I have a thing for talking in front of a camera."

But what Sheridan and the seven other children who visited the fire station learned from the firefighters was not the point of Wednesday's outing.

The point was the video footage.

The entire tour was orchestrated by Missoula Community Access Television to teach children how to produce video documentaries. The kids will edit together the footage from Wednesday into short movies, which will be aired on Channel 7 at 5 p.m. Friday.

"We teach the kids the basics: what a camera is, how to zoom, how to record," said Philip Christerson, the MCAT employee who is running the summer camp to give children ages 9 to 13 a head start in broadcasting. "It has been a lot of fun."

The children, armed with cameras and questions, dutifully followed the firefighters on a tour of Fire Station No. 1, capturing every moment on film.

The firefighters showed off the trucks and other equipment before pulling out their fire gear.

"We try to tell kids: He might look scary right now," said firefighter Joel Gaertig, pointing toward his fully geared-up co-worker Charles Talbott, "but he is actually your friend. And you need to go to him if you see him."

"That's right," Talbott said from behind his air mask. "(And) it's cool because when I put this on I sound like Darth Vader."

The cameras jerked around in time with the children's laughter.


After the show-and-tell, the kids broke into groups to conduct interviews.

"Why don't you have a fire dog anymore?" asked Olivia Dzomba, 8, when it was her turn with Gaertig.

Fire dogs, Gaertig explained, were Dalmations used more than 100 years ago when fire wagons were towed by horses. The dogs would run on either side of the wagon to keep other dogs from biting at the horses.

Before the interviews could be completed, a call came in.

"Everybody move over here," Christerson yelled, ushering everyone away from the fire engine.

The children whispered excitedly to each other - cameras focused - as the fire truck turned on its lights and pulled out of the bay.

"Yup, there they go," Dzomba said with a proud nod.

The children will spend Thursday editing the footage into short documentaries at the MCAT station.

Each of the children will be at the station Friday to introduce his or her short film live.

This is Christerson's third broadcasting camp. He plans to continue hosting it indefinitely. The station also plans to launch a similar camp for adults, Christerson said.

Jessie Higgins is a fourth-year student at the University of Oregon who is interning this summer at the Missoulian. She can be reached at 523-5251, or jessie.higgins@missoulian.com.


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