Matthew Kiper, 9, left, and Jake Gilbert, 10, drag fire hoses during a Newport Beach's Jr. Firefighter camp at Mariner's Park on Thursday, Aug. 12. (Scott Smeltzer, Daily Pilot / August 11, 2010)

NEWPORT BEACH — His hands on his knees and still catching his breath, 11-year-old David Zachry peered down at the clipboard listing individual performance times to see how he did.

"I was just ten seconds away from you!" he said smiling to the boy who bested him, Anthony Saavedra, 13.

They were two of 26 kids enjoying the last days of the Newport Beach Fire Department's Junior Firefighter Camp at Mariners Park. The camp's popularity seems to have grown in its five years, with this week-long camp and the next one scheduled for later this month already full.

On Thursday morning, David and Anthony were the first to try the hose course, where kids dragged a heavy portion of a fire hose up and down the grass, rolled another hose up (not as easy as it sounds), then blasted targets about 50 feet away with the water. Each did it in less than three minutes.

"It's hard because you're running and the hose is really heavy. I really wanted to win," David said. "You feel a lot of pressure."

"They like the competitive nature of it all," said firefighter Joe Laser.

Kids literally felt the pressure when firefighters let them handle the hose and taught them the different sprays, from a wide fog to a sharp stream.

"If the firefighters don't help you, you're pretty much gone," said Blakely Digiovanni, 9. "They can help you or you can go flying like in a cartoon!"

Kids learn the basics of firefighting, from first aid and having an escape route in their house, to putting on a firefighters' turnouts and of course, using the hose.

And much to the delight of the kids and camp organizers alike, the day ended with firefighters manning the hoses and raining down water on them just as parents came to pick them up.

To get on the waiting list for the next camp or for more information on next year's camps, go to http://www.newportbeachca.gov, go to online services then recreation registration, or call (949) 644-3110.