'Burn Buddy' finds comfort at firehouse
By STEVEN N. LEVINE
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HAINES CITY -- Poinciana resident Landrea Green plans on a career as a marine biologist when she grows up.

A Friday night shift with "Burn Buddy" firefighter-engineer Tracy Farmer at Haines City Fire Headquarters convinced Landrea it might be the only way to get a good night's sleep.

Landrea, 11, still managed to doze through most of the 10 alarms Oct. 3 that Haines City firefighters believe were largely the work of an arsonist. She caught the tail end of the spree waking about 5:30 a.m. while Farmer

was on her seventh or eighth response.

"We figured she'd come, spend the night, get a good rest and then we'd have breakfast," Farmer said after a sleepless night. "Now, we're kidding her that she's banned from the fire house."

At least dinner was standard firehouse fare: spaghetti, salad and donuts.

Landrea, the daughter of Jeanette Green, was seriously burned by boiling water while still a baby. As a little sister to Farmer, an 11-year Haines City fire service veteran, Landrea receives acceptance, appreciation and love that goes far deeper than her scars.

"I learned that there's people starting fires and firefighters are very important," the well-spoken sixth-grader said. "I learned that the dispatcher is a very important person who copies down all the information and calls in everyone when the firefighters need help."

This fall, Farmer will be Landrea's burn buddy at a camp for seriously burned and scarred children. The Central Florida Burn Camp, Nov. 7-9, offers up to 72 kids aged 6 to 16 a chance to forget their disabilities and just be a kid. The cost per child is actually $1,500, but regional coordinators

are responsible for raising donations.

The free program, held in conjunction with the four-year-old Florida Children's Burn Foundation, has room for up to 12 Polk County children, said Lake Mary Deputy Fire Marshal Wendy Benton, Central Florida regional coordinator.

No one is interested in the scars or missing limbs that often mark burn victims. Children from throughout the region are treated as normal kids, Benton said. For once, no one stares because no one cares, she said.

Benton's former burn buddy, who lost her feet to burns, thought nothing of clambering from her wheelchair to climb a fire pole on the challenge course.

"The thing that impresses me the most is the spirit of these kids," she said. "You wonder how they do it."

For some of the youths, the greatest tragedy is that the burns are the work of their own family inflicted as a form of child abuse. That's why the exact location of the camp remains a closely-guarded secret, Farmer said.

Individuals interested in next year's burn camp should call Farmer at

439-5609.